Overview of Toxoplasmosis in Cats
Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasmosis, commonly shorted and referred to as “Toxo”, can occur in both cats and dogs. Cats are generally asymptomatic carriers of this infectious disease but can be affected under certain circumstances. This disease is zoonotic, which means it is transmissible to humans, and pregnant women especially must be careful when handling their cat's litter boxes.
Below is an overview of Toxoplasmosis in Cats followed by in-depth details about the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care for this condition.
Kittens are more susceptible to toxoplasmosis infection than adult cats and have more severe signs of disease when infected. Also, cats that are outdoors and hunt wildlife are at higher risk than cats confined to an indoor environment. Animals that are fed raw or incompletely cooked meat are at higher risk, as well as animals that are immunosuppressed.
Cats usually contract the disease by the following means:
What to Watch For
The signs of toxoplasmosis in pets are nonspecific, and most cats show no signs of infection. These signs may include fever, loss of appetite and depression. Further signs may occur, but that depends on where the infection occurs; toxoplasmosis can affect any organ system but primarily affects the lungs, the central nervous system (brain) and the eyes.
Diagnosis of Toxoplasmosis in Cats
The best method to diagnose toxoplasmosis is measurement of antibodies to the organism. Your veterinarian may also do other diagnostic tests, such as:
Treatment of Toxoplasmosis in Cats
At home care consists of administering any medications prescribed by your veterinarian.
Pet cats should be fed only dry, canned or cooked food. Cats should not be fed uncooked meat, entrails or bones as these tissues may contain toxoplasma cysts. Take measures to prevent cats from successfully hunting wildlife (keep indoors, attach bells to collars).
Secure trash containers to prevent garbage scavenging by cats. Remove carcasses of rodents or birds before cats can consume them.
Preventing human exposure to toxoplasmotitis from cats
Pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals should not clean cat litter boxes and they should avoid contact with cat feces and soil where cats may have defecated. If another family member cannot clean the cat litter box, the box should be emptied daily, and cleaned with scalding water once weekly.
In-depth Information on Toxoplasmosis in Cats
Related Symptoms or Diseases
The diagnosis of toxoplasmosis can be very difficult. In addition to obtaining a complete medical history (including your pet's travel history) and performing a complete physical examination, your veterinarian will likely perform many of the following diagnostic tests.
Other tests that may aid in the diagnosis of toxoplasmosis include:
Because the results of some diagnostic tests take several days to return, your veterinarian may need to initiate supportive therapy before a definitive diagnosis is made.
Follow-up Care for Cats with Toxoplasmosis
At home, administer any medications prescribed by your veterinarian. Some antibiotics may cause intestinal upset resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. If vomiting and diarrhea occur during the administration of an antibiotic, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
If your pet is receiving trimethoprim-sulfa and pyrimethamine, your veterinarian will ask you to recheck your pet's CBC periodically during treatment to detect whether bone marrow suppression is present or not.
Encourage your pet to eat and drink. Pets that are unwilling to eat or drink should be re-examined immediately. Your veterinarian will schedule a recheck examination and will submit blood to recheck antibody titers after the course of antibiotic administration is completed.
Preventing Cat Exposure
Pet cats should be fed only dry, canned or cooked food. Cats should not be fed uncooked meat, entrails or bones as these tissues may contain toxoplasma cysts. Take measures to prevent cats from hunting wildlife. Keep them indoors or attach bells to their collars. Secure trash containers to prevent garbage scavenging by cats, and remove the carcasses of rodents or birds before cats can consume them.
Preventing Human Exposure From Cats
Pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals should not clean cat litter boxes and should avoid contact with cat feces and soil where cats may have defecated. If another family member cannot clean the cat litter box, the box should be emptied daily, and cleaned with scalding water once weekly.