Parasite Infection (Leishmaniasis) in Cats

Key takeaways

Leishmaniasis is a protozoic infection in cats caused by the parasites of the Leishmania genus.

  • The infection is found all over the world and is transmitted to cats through sandfly bites
  • Leishmaniasis in cats is often asymptomatic, but common clinical signs include ulcerated skin lesions, swollen lymph nodes, and ocular and oral lesions
  • The infection can also spread and become systemic causing organ failures
  • The diagnosis is confirmed through blood tests, cytology, and biopsy, although further diagnostics such as PCR might be necessary
  • Immunosuppressed cats are more prone to contracting the infection and FeLV/FIV testing may also be included in the diagnostic process
  • Leishmaniasis is a chronic disease in cats with no known treatment
  • Chemotherapeutic agents are used to reduce the symptoms
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A closer look: Parasite Infection (Leishmaniasis) in Cats

Leishmaniasis is relatively rare in cats and is most commonly seen in dogs. It is a serious, often chronic infection in cats. The prognosis for affected cats is usually good with a life expectancy of years.

Leishmaniasis can be zoonotic and infect other cats, dogs, and even humans. It is crucial to use caution in handling suspected cases to prevent spread.

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Risk factors

Leishmaniasis can develop into a multisystemic disease and lead to organ failure.

Possible causes

Leishmaniasis is usually contracted from infected sandflies. Sandflies carry the parasite after feeding from infected cats. It is also possible for cats to contract the infection through blood transfusion.

Main symptoms

Leishmaniasis in cats can be asymptomatic. Cats often are just carriers of the disease.

Testing and diagnosis

The diagnosis is confirmed through blood tests.

If these tests are negative, other evaluations such as cytology, biopsy of the lesions, and PCR are necessary, especially if the patient presents symptoms compatible with leishmaniasis.

Steps to Recovery

Immunosuppressed cats are more prone to contract the infection so FeLV/FIV testing is often concurrently conducted as well.

Leishmaniasis is a lifelong disease and there is no known treatment for it. Chemotherapeutic agents are sometimes used to reduce the symptoms.

The life expectancy of affected cats is generally good. Clinical signs might disappear with treatment but relapse is a concrete risk.


Prevention consists of reducing exposure to sandflies. Most topical insecticides are toxic to cats and are not recommended for use without consulting a veterinarian.

Leishmaniasis is a contagious disease and preventive measures such as isolating infected cats and preventing exposure to the outdoors, especially in endemic areas is key.

Is Parasite Infection (Leishmaniasis) in Cats common?

Leishmaniasis is relatively rare in cats.

Typical Treatment

Chemotherapeutic agents to reduce symptoms

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