Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Leptospirosis in cats: what it is and how to treat it

Leptospirosis in cats: what it is and how to treat it

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can enter a cat's body through the skin and spread through the body via the bloodstream. Today, our Vienna vets explain the causes, symptoms, and treatment of leptospirosis in cats.

Leptospirosis in Cats

Leptospires replicate throughout the body, including the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and reproductive system. When an infection of the liver or kidneys develops and causes serious organ damage, it can be fatal.

The disease is classified as zoonotic, meaning it can be passed from animal to human. Children are especially vulnerable to contracting this parasite infection from an infected pet, and kittens with underdeveloped immune systems are more vulnerable to serious consequences from the disease.

Symptoms of Leptospirosis in Cats

The symptoms of leptospirosis in cats are numerous and varied. Because of this, it's incredibly important to see your veterinarian, or an emergency vet, if you suspect your cat may have contracted the parasite.

Symptoms include:

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

Causes of Leptospirosis in Cats

Infection with Leptospira spirochete is more common in subtropical, tropical, and moist regions. In the United States and Canada, the infection rate for domestic pets has been growing, with illnesses more commonly seen in the autumn.

Cats who live near wooded areas or on or near farms are more likely to become infected due to Leptospira spirochetes being the most prevalent in marshy/muddy areas with stagnant surface water. Furthermore, 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 another infected animal.

Diagnosis for Cats with Leptospirosis

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

Your veterinarian will want a full history of your cat's health, including a history of symptoms and recent activity. The information you provide might help them determine what stage of infection your cat is in and which organs are most likely impacted.

Your vet will likely order a complete set of diagnostic tests too for a better understanding of your cat's situation.

Treatment for Cats with Leptospirosis

The primary treatment for rectifying the effects of dehydration will be fluid therapy. If your cat has been vomiting, an antiemetic (anti-vomiting medication) may be given to them. If your cat's ability to eat or keep food down is impaired due to sickness, a gastric tube can be used to provide nourishment.

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

The good news is that, except for the potential of serious organ damage, the prognosis for recovery is generally good.

After Treatment

Leptospires can be detected in urine for several weeks following therapy and apparent recovery from an infection. Appropriate handling techniques are the most effective strategy to prevent infection or reinfection. This includes handling all body excretions with gloves which are disposed of properly afterward. Make sure to dispose of the feces and urine carefully and properly. It may also be worthwhile quarantining your pet for a few weeks even after recovery. For more information about your pet's particular case, speak to your vet.

Whether or not you, your family, or your other pets are displaying symptoms, it is highly recommended 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.

If you're worried that your cat is showing signs of Leptospirosis, contact our Hope Advanced Veterinary Center vets in Vienna immediately.

New Patients Welcome 

Hope Advanced Veterinary Center is always accepting new patients! Our board-certified vets and specialists are passionate about restoring good health to Vienna's pets.

Contact Us

Contact (703) 281-5121