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Leptospirosis in Cats

Leptospirosis in Cats

Cats can get a bacterial infection called leptospirosis. In this blog post, our vets in Lisle will tell you how it spreads in cats, how to spot it, and when to contact a vet. 

Cats & Leptospirosis

Leptospires replicate throughout a cat's body, including the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and reproductive system. When an infection occurs in the liver or kidneys, it can cause severe organ damage, which can be fatal.

Leptospirosis is a disease that can pass from animals to people, and children are at higher risk of getting it from an infected pet. Kittens with weaker immune systems are also more likely to suffer from the severe effects of this illness. 

Signs & Symptoms of Leptospirosis in Cats

Leptospirosis can cause a wide range of symptoms in cats. Therefore, it's incredibly important to see your veterinarian or an emergency vet if you suspect your cat may have contracted the parasite.

Symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Runny nose
  • Weakness
  • Spontaneous cough
  • Dark red speckled gums
  • Increased thirst and urination, progressing into rapid dehydration and the inability to urinate.
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Sore or stiff muscles, legs, and gait and/or a reluctance to move
  • Sudden fever and illness
  • Shivering
  • Yellow skin and/or whites of eyes
  • Swelling of the mucous membrane or mild swelling of the lymph nodes
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea, possibly with blood
  • Difficulty breathing, fast breathing, irregular pulse
  • Bloody vaginal discharge for female cats

How Cats Get Leptospirosis

Leptospira infections are more common in warm, wet areas, and the number of cases among pets in the United States and Canada is increasing, especially in the fall. 

Cats that live near wooded areas or near/on farms are more likely to become infected. This is because Leptospira spirochetes are most prevalent in marshy/muddy areas with stagnant surface water. In addition to this, heavily irrigated pastures are also common sources of infection, owing to the possibility of infected soil or mud. Cats can also contract leptospirosis from the urine of other infected animals.

Diagnosing Leptospirosis In Cats

Because leptospirosis is a zoonotic illness, your veterinarian will use extreme caution when handling your cat. They must always wear latex gloves, and all bodily fluids will be handled as biologically hazardous materials. Urine, sperm, vomit, and any other fluid that exits the body has to be handled with particular care.

Your veterinarian will want a full history of your cat's health, including their recent activity and past symptoms. The information you give your vet might help them determine what stage of infection your cat is at and the organs being impacted.

Your vet may also conduct a range of diagnostic tests to get a better understanding of your cat's case.

Treating Leptospirosis in Cats

If your cat is dehydrated, the main treatment is fluid therapy. If your cat is vomiting, they might get medicine to stop it. If your cat's ability to eat or keep food down is impaired because of sickness, a gastric tube may be used to provide sustenance.

Your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics for at least four weeks. The type of antibiotic they provide will depend on the stage of infection. Penicillins can be used to treat initial infections, but they are ineffective at killing bacteria once it has reached the carrier stage. Some antibiotics could have major adverse effects, especially those that travel deeper into the system to eradicate infection.

The good news is that except for serious organ damage, the prognosis for recovery is usually good.

After Leptospirosis Treatments

Leptospires can be detected in a cat's urine for several weeks after therapy and apparent recovery from an infection. Appropriate handling techniques are the most effective way to prevent infection or reinfection.

This includes handling all body excretions with gloves and disposing of them properly afterward. Remember to also dispose of your cat's feces and urine properly. It may also be worthwhile quarantining your pet for a few weeks after they recover. You can ask your veterinarian for more information.

Don't forget to get tested for Leptosporis, as it can affect both humans and other animals, even if you all seem healthy. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat is showing signs of leptospirosis, contact our Lisle vets immediately and schedule an appointment.

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