Cats can contract leptospirosis, a bacterial spirochete infection. In this post, our Mooresville vets explain how leptospirosis spreads among cats, how you can recognize it, and when you should call a vet.
Cats & Leptospirosis
Leptospires have the ability to reproduce in various parts of a cat's body such as the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and reproductive system. If an infection takes hold in the liver or kidneys, it can lead to severe damage to these organs, and in some cases, even death. It is important to note that leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can spread from animals to humans.
Children, in particular, are at a higher risk of contracting this parasitic infection from an infected pet. Additionally, young cats with underdeveloped immune systems are more susceptible to experiencing serious consequences from the disease.
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.
- Runny nose
- 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/or gait and/or a reluctance to move
- Sudden fever and illness
- 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 spirochete infections are prevalent in subtropical, tropical, and moist regions. However, it is noteworthy that domestic pets in the United States and Canada are increasingly getting infected, with ailments becoming most common in autumn. Cats that live near wooded areas or farms are at a higher risk of contracting the infection.
This is because Leptospira spirochetes are most commonly found in marshy and muddy areas with stagnant surface water. Additionally, heavily irrigated pastures pose a potential risk of infection due to contaminated soil or mud. It is also possible for cats to contract Leptospirosis from other infected animals' urine.
Diagnosing Leptospirosis In Cats
To prevent the spread of leptospirosis, your veterinarian will take special precautions when caring for your cat. They will always wear latex gloves and treat all bodily fluids as biohazardous materials. This includes urine, sperm, vomit, and any other fluids that exit the body.
To better understand your cat's condition, your veterinarian will ask for a thorough medical history, including recent activity and past symptoms. This information will help them identify the stage of infection and which organs are affected.
Your vet may also conduct a range of diagnostic tests to get a better understanding of your cat's case.
Treating Leptospirosis in Cats
To address dehydration, the foremost treatment would be fluid therapy. In cases where cats have been experiencing vomiting, they may receive antiemetic or anti-vomiting medication. In situations where sickness is impeding their ability to eat or retain food, gastric tubes 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
It's important to note that leptospires can still be present in a cat's urine for a few weeks even after receiving therapy and appearing to have recovered from an infection. In order to prevent infection or reinfection, it's crucial to handle all body excretions with gloves and dispose of them properly. Proper disposal of your cat's feces and urine is also important. It may be worth considering quarantining your pet for a few weeks following their recovery. If you need more information, don't hesitate to consult your veterinarian.
Despite how well you, your family, and your other pets feel, it's always a good idea to get tested for Leptospirosis. Remember that it is a zoonotic disease, and can spread just as easily to humans as it can to other animals.
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.