Leptospirosis in Cats

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Key takeaways

Leptospirosis in cats is a bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals. Leptospirosis is most often contracted by exposure to contaminated water or soil via mucous membranes or breaks in the skin.

  • Common animal vectors include rodents, raccoons, skunks, and foxes
  • There are several strains of the leptospira bacteria that cause disease
  • Leptospirosis is mild and thought to be rare in cats
  • Leptospirosis can be spread from animals to humans
  • Personal protective equipment must be used when handling or living with infected cats
  • Symptoms of leptospirosis include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, stiffness, and severe weakness
  • Diagnosis is made via blood or urine testing
  • Treatment is with antibiotics
  • Early and aggressive treatment can produce good outcomes, but there is a risk of permanent organ damage
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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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Risk factors


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.

Possible causes


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.

Main symptoms


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.

Prevention


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.

Typical Treatment


  • Antibiotics
  • Supportive care

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