Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that can put any warm-blooded animal at risk of infection. Today our Stockton vets tell pet owners more about Toxoplasma gondii and the infection Toxoplasmasmosis.
As it is in many people, toxoplasmosis is often asymptomatic for many cats and dogs. However, while the disease is usually not dangerous for people with healthy immune systems, it can pose a far greater risk for those who are pregnant or immunocompromised.
Toxoplasma Gondii Parasite
While cats are the only definite hosts for Toxoplasma gondii - meaning that the parasite thrives inside an infected cat, but can be passed on by other mammals like dogs or humans until it finds another suitable definitive host. An infected cat will pass feces with eggs inside it - if your dog has a nasty habit of eating out of the litterbox, they could become an intermediate host that in turn reinfects or infects the feline members of the household and begin the lifecycle anew.
How is Toxoplasma Gondii Contracted?
Once a cat has shed the oocysts (eggs), and they have reached the infectious stage, they can be picked up in a number of ways;
- From the feline feces directly- If there are litter boxes in your house, remember to clean them out daily! Fresh oocysts are not infectious. They will need at least 24 hours to become infectious. Remove the possibility right away and WASH YOUR HANDS.
- Cover sandboxes – Cats will often sandboxes as an outdoor litter box. If you have a sandbox on your property, be sure to cover it.
- Gardens/vegetables – Cats can release oocysts (eggs) in the garden via their feces, which then will contaminate the soil of your fresh veggies. It is always best practice to wash your veggies before eating them and peel them whenever you can. This is not a likely way to contract Toxoplasmosis, but it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to parasitic infections.
- Ingesting contaminated meat – Lamb, pork, and venison are especially likely to be infected with T. gondii. Always make sure to cook your food to the recommended internal temperature for each type of meat.
- Drinking contaminated water – while contaminated water is uncommon in the United States now, it is important to be aware of any emergency water advisory warnings in your area, if Toxoplasma gondii has contaminated the water then you'll not want to consume unfiltered and unboiled tap water.
Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis
The majority of pets will not experience symptoms, but pets with compromised immune systems can be in serious danger. Symptoms of a pet experiencing a dangerous case of Toxoplasmosis include eye discharge, diarrhea, and the signs of respiratory, liver, and neurological disease.
Treatment for Toxoplasmosis
Diagnosing the condition is very difficult, blood tests can be performed for cats but they only detect if the parasite has been in your feline friend relatively recently. A positive test does not verify if the parasite is still currently present, or if it is currently active. If Toxoplasmosis is diagnosed it is important for your cat to start treatment on antibiotics immediately.
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.