Although ferrets are reportedly refractory to leptospira infections, occasional cases present with acute infections characterised by icterus and acute hepatitis.
Species which are pathogenic to ferrets include:
- Leptospira interrogans (6 serogroups - Australis, Autumnalis, Icterohæmorrhagiæ, Grippotyphosa, Panama, Sejroe)
Mustelids are primarily infected by predation of mice, rats and other rodents which harbor a renal nidus of spirochaetes.
Secondary infections also occur through contact with infective urine passed by wildlife vectors such as cattle, raccoons, foxes, bobcats and opossums.
Although most mustelids are asymptomatically affected when infected experimentally, clinical disease is reported as a result of other factors such as concurrent bacterial or viral infections, or other causes of immunosuppression.
Diagnosis is based on urinalysis, with culture of the leptospire by specialist laboratories, or ELISA or PCR assay confirmation of antigens.
Treatment regimen focuses on antimicrobial therapy, usually with tetracyclines, but aggressive therapy is required to minimise renal damage.
Commercial vaccines (bacterins) are available for cats residing in areas endemic for leptospirosis.
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