Tetanus Can Happen to Cats Too!
All of us are hopefully up to date on our tetanus vaccine, but it’s important to remember that animals can get it too. While dogs and cats are not routinely vaccinated, other animals such as horses and livestock are. The reason we don’t vaccinate cats is that they are generally very resistant to infection.
Tetanus enters the body by a penetrating wound or sometimes after a surgical procedure if sterile techniques aren’t used. The bacteria responsible is Clostridium tetani, which travels from the site of infection up the nervous system. It causes a sustained muscle contraction without release, which can result in signs such as a hyperextended leg or a stiff legged walk. More severe signs of tetanus are lockjaw, seizures or respiratory arrest.
Tetanus can be focal (such as a leg) or generalized and signs usually become evident 5-10 days after infection, but can take up to 21 days. Treatment is mostly supportive, though sometimes removal of damaged tissue (debridement) and antibiotics are needed. Recuperating cats may require physical therapy or help with feeding and urination and recovery can take weeks to months.