A closer look: Leptospirosis in Cats
The infective bacteria, leptospira, are commonly found in contaminated water or soil. Because cats with the disease may have mild or no symptoms, the problem may be difficult to identify. Cats with symptoms of leptospirosis need immediate veterinary attention and the disease can be spread to humans and requires careful handling.
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The symptoms of leptospirosis are variable and non-specific. Pets occasionally show no symptoms. Younger animals are typically more severely impacted than older ones.
Cats may be more mildly affected than other species and leptospirosis is rare. Prognosis can be good with early treatment, but permanent organ damage is possible.
The bacteria that cause Leptospirosis are spread through infected animals' urine, which can enter water or soil and survive for weeks to months.The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch.
Potential routes of infection include contact with infected urine, urine-contaminated soil, water, food, bedding, bites from an infected animal, and eating infected tissues or carcasses.
In rare cases, leptospirosis can be spread through breeding.
It can also be passed through the placenta and milk from the mother cat to the kittens.
Testing and diagnosis
The first step of a potential case of leptospirosis is to stabilize the patient when necessary. This may involve IV fluids to replace fluid losses from vomiting and diarrhea. Leptospirosis is definitively diagnosed via blood and/or urine testing.
Steps to Recovery
Treatment options are not clearly identified in cats, since the disease is so rare in this species, but are extrapolated from dog treatment recommendations. Antibiotics and supportive care are used in dogs.
Extrapolating from data on dogs, the likelihood of recovery is good with prompt and intensive treatment, but there is a danger of permanent kidney or liver damage.
As leptospirosis is contracted via contact with infected animals’ urine, keeping cats indoors is good practice to avoid the disease. Prevention of rodent infestations is also recommended.
There is currently no vaccine approved for use in cats.
Is Leptospirosis in Cats common?
Leptospirosis is rare in cats.
- Supportive care