Leptospirosis in Cats

ByDana G. Allen, DVM, MSc, DACVIM, Ontario Veterinary College
Reviewed/Revised Aug 2018

    Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria in the genus Leptospira. The disease affects virtually all mammals, including people, and has a broad range of effects, from mild infections with no signs to multiple-organ failure and death. In the past, experts believed that cats were not susceptible to infection, but it is now thought that the bacteria might play a role in longterm kidney disease. As such, cats are unlikely to show the signs of leptospirosis seen in other animals.

    The bacteria is shed in the urine of infected animals. Because infective urine can contaminate and survive in surface waters (such as swamps, streams, and rivers) for extended periods, the disease is often waterborne. Specialized tests are available to identify the bacteria in the blood, urine, or tissue. In cats, antibodies to the bacteria may be detected.

    The treatment for longterm kidney disease varies depending on its stage and the cat's signs. Treatments may include a special diet, intravenous or subcutaneous fluids, or medications. Antibiotics may be necessary if your veterinarian determines that leptospirosis is the cause of your cat's kidney disease.

    Because leptospirosis can be transmitted to people, any caretakers should take appropriate precautions when handling known or suspected infected animals. Your veterinarian will give recommendations about how to protect yourself and your family.

    Also see professional content regarding leptospirosis.

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