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What is Leptospirosis Infection?

Leptospirosis is a relatively rare bacterial infection in cats that can be fatal. The disease can spread from the cat to other animals and humans. Children, elderly adults and those with weak immune systems are especially at risk for acquiring the parasitic bacteria from their cat.

Leptospirosis is one of the most widespread zoonotic diseases, infecting both domestic and wild animals. It is acquired through the bacteria burrowing into the cat's skin. The disease enters the skin and then reproduces in the kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, liver and reproductive system via the bloodstream. Though many cats’ immune systems are able to quickly produce antibodies and fight off leptospirosis, the condition can cause severe organ damage in the kidneys and liver.

Leptospirosis Infection Average Cost

From 585 quotes ranging from $800 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,200

Symptoms of Leptospirosis Infection in Cats

Though the disease quickly spreads throughout the entire body, the extent of symptoms will depend on the overall health and immune system of the cat.

  • Shivering
  • Weakness
  • Sudden fever
  • Stiff gait
  • Reluctance to move
  • Refusal to eat
  • Vomiting that may contain traces of blood
  • Diarrhea that may contain blood
  • Increased thirst and urine output that may progress to no urination
  • Bloody vaginal discharge
  • Dehydration
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Fast, irregular pulse
  • Depression
  • Mild lymph node swelling
  • Runny nose
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Causes of Leptospirosis Infection in Cats

The disease comes from an infection of bacterial spirochetes that burrow themselves into the skin. The subspecies bacteria of leptospirosis that typically affect cats, L. grippotyphosa and L. Pomona, are found in the following areas:

  • Subtropical and tropical environments
  • Stagnant water in marshy/muddy areas
  • Irrigated pastures

Cats that have the infection typically drink the infected water that contains the Leptospira spirochete or eat a wild animal that has drunk the infected water. 

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Diagnosis of Leptospirosis Infection in Cats

The veterinarian will ask the cat's owner for a complete health history and whether the cat has been in wooded areas where they may have come into contact with wild animals with the infection or near wet areas recently. The vet will then perform a complete physical exam on the cat. Several medical tests will need to be performed to confirm the diagnosis and determine how the cat's body is reacting to the infection. A urinalysis can help the veterinarian learn if the kidneys have been affected. A complete blood count, electrolyte panel and a fluorescent antibody test will also be performed on the cat in order to determine how the organs are reacting to the infection. A microscopic agglutination test may also be done on your cat. This test looks at the antibodies in the blood that the cat's immune system made in response to the infection. Because many cats with healthy immune systems can quickly develop antibodies to fight off the infection, the number of antibodies will help the veterinarian determine how best to treat the cat.

If a leptospirosis infection is suspected in the cat, it's important to bring the cat to a veterinarian right away. As it is a zoonotic disease, the cat will need treatment at the vet rather than at home where other people in the household could become infected. When handling the cat, always use gloves. All of the cat's body fluids, including saliva, semen, post-birth discharge, urine, blood and vomit will all contain the infectious bacteria. Caution must be exercised when cleaning these fluids.

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Treatment of Leptospirosis Infection in Cats

Fluid Therapy

To counteract the effects of vomiting and frequent urination that cause dehydration in cats with this infection, fluids will need to be administered. Fluid therapy is essential to ensure that the kidneys are getting the proper amount of hydration to function properly.

Antiemetics

Medications known as antiemetics will be given to the cat if he or she cannot tolerate food due to an upset stomach and vomiting. Renal failure may also cause an upset stomach. If the cat experienced renal problems as a result of the infection, there are some types of antiemetics that can be given that won't harm the kidneys further.

Feeding Tube

A feeding tube may be put into place in order to get nourishment to the cat if food isn't being tolerated well.

Blood Transfusion

If the cat has lost too much blood through vomiting, diarrhea or hemorrhaging, a blood transfusion can replace the blood that was lost.

Antibiotics

Depending on the strain that infected the cat, antibiotics will be given for at least four weeks. The type of antibiotic prescribed by the veterinarian will be determined by the extent that the disease has spread in the cat's body and how well the cat's immune system is fighting the infection.

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Recovery of Leptospirosis Infection in Cats

The cat will need to continue to follow up with the veterinarian during antibiotic treatment for follow-up labs to determine how the antibiotics are being tolerated and the effect that they are having on the infection. If renal or liver disease were caused by the infection, further treatment, such as a special diet or medication, will be recommended by the doctor to keep the kidneys and liver functioning.

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Leptospirosis Infection Average Cost

From 585 quotes ranging from $800 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,200

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Leptospirosis Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Vino

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Domestic shorthair

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10 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Polyuria, Polydipsia
Elevated Creatinine
Elevated Urea

10yr old male neutered Cat was infected with Lepto after being bitten by rat since Jan. Been on doxycycline on and off for a few months. First blood test on 25 feb after starting doxy showed antibody titer at 100, pcr, negative. Second test on 16 july antibody was up to 300, pcr came back positive. Marbocyl injection was added to doxycycline. another blood sample was taken 16 days after start of marbocyl and 31 days after doxy on 23 aug and sent for testing. Results came back with only slight decrease in antibody titer to 250 and pcr still came back positive. I thought pcr would be negative after antibiotic treatment. Vet is also at a loss as to what to do next. The leptospira seem to be defiant of all antibiotics and there are no case studies of cats with lepto who recovered with specific class of antibiotics. Anybody has any idea what we should try next? Other than elevated creatinine 395 umol/L and urea 15.3mmol/L levels in his blood work and low usg 1.014....cat on the whole seems fine. Drinks alot coz it is 35c here and mainly on dry senior kibble. Pees 4 times a day....would appreciate any suggestion of what to do next.

Leptospirosis Infection Average Cost

From 585 quotes ranging from $800 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,200

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