Toxoplasma gondii is a type of protozoan parasite that is related to the coccidian protozoa. This parasite thrives in cats but can also affect dogs and people. Our Citrus Heights vets discuss the causes of Toxoplasma gondii as well as the symptoms and treatment available.
Typically cats and dogs, as well as humans, that are affected by Toxoplasmosis will be asymptomatic. If the host is healthy then there is usually no cause for concern. However, for pets or humans that are suffering from any medical conditions that cause them to be immunocompromised this parasite can prove to be deadly.
Life Cycle of the Toxoplasma Gondii Parasite
Although Toxoplasma gondii can infect a variety of hosts, the only animal that they will make a permanent home and thrive in is cats. The parasite is capable of using dogs or humans as intermediate hosts while they wait to come into contact with a feline host. An infected feline will pass feces with eggs inside it - consumption of these feces spreads the parasite to intermediate hosts who in turn if they are consumed by a member of the feline family they could become infected and begin the parasite lifecycle over again.
How Toxoplasma Gondii is Transmitted
Once the oocysts (eggs) have been shed from the cat and become infectious, they can be transmitted many different ways:
- Direct contact with cat feces- If you have indoor cats, be sure to clean the little boxes on a daily basis. 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 any sandboxes on your property – Cats will use sandboxes as an outdoor litter box. If you have a sandbox on your property, be sure to cover it.
- Vegetable and flower gardens – Cats can release oocysts (eggs) in the garden, which then will contaminate the soil of your fresh veggies. Washing and peeling your vegetable before ingestion is always recommended. While this is not a common way to contract Toxoplasmosis it is a possibility so caution is never inadvisable.
- Ingesting contaminated meat – Lamb, pork, and venison are some types of meat that are most commonly infected with T. gondii. It is important to ensure that you always cook your meat to the recommended internal temperature.
- Drinking contaminated water – while the United States typically has safe drinking water there are still emergency situations that may cause 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.
What Are The Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis?
Symptoms are uncommon with animals that are generally healthy but if your pet is suffering from any medical conditions that affect their immune system or are pregnant then the result could be severe. Symptoms of a pet experiencing a dangerous case of Toxoplasmosis include eye discharge, diarrhea, and the signs of respiratory, liver, and neurological disease.
What Treatments Are Available for Toxoplasmosis?
Diagnosing the condition is very difficult, if your cat has been recently infected with these parasites then blood tests may be efficient in detecting the infection. A positive test does not verify if the parasite is still currently present, or if it is currently active. If Toxoplasmosis has been diagnosed in your cat then your vet will prescribe a course of antibiotics that you should begin immediately. Be sure to follow your vet's directions and complete the prescription entirely.