Here’s What You Should Know About Toxoplasmosis In Cats
You might be thinking, “What the heck is toxoplasmosis?”
It’s actually a parasitic infection your cat can get. The good news is it’s usually no big deal for healthy adult cats. The bad news is it can cause some major problems for immunocompromised cats (and pregnant or immunocompromised people).
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Chyrle Bonk, a veterinarian working with Doggie Designer, to find out everything you need to know about toxoplasmosis in cats.
What is toxoplasmosis in cats?
Toxoplasmosis in cats happens when the microscopic single-celled parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) infects your pet.
“It is a very widespread infection in cats worldwide and is capable of infecting nearly every warm-blooded creature,” Dr. Bonk told The Dodo.
It’s not a huge problem for healthy cats, but an infection could result in more serious problems for cats who are pregnant or have immune issues.
How do cats get toxoplasmosis?
Cats can get toxoplasmosis through another host.
“Infected cats shed toxoplasma eggs into the environment,” Dr. Bonk said. “Those eggs are inadvertently eaten by other animals, including humans and rodents.”
So if your cat ends up eating an infected animal, he could then get infected.
“Cats then eat the infected rodents and start up a new infection inside their digestive tract, where the toxoplasma adults mature and start to replicate,” Dr. Bonk said.
And because the parasite can live in your cat’s poop, your pet can get toxoplasmosis by consuming contaminated feces, too.
How do you get toxoplasmosis from cats?
You could also get toxoplasmosis from your cat’s poop if he’s infected just by inhaling poop particles while you’re scooping his litter box.
“Humans are susceptible to toxoplasmosis,” Dr. Bonk said. “They are able to get the infection from cleaning litter boxes of infected cats.”
A toxoplasmosis infection usually isn’t a huge issue for people, though, unless they’re pregnant or immunocompromised.
“Pregnant women or those with immune system issues are the most commonly affected,” Dr. Bonk said. “That’s why it’s recommended that pregnant women not be in charge of scooping during their pregnancy.”
What are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis in cats?
Healthy cats usually don’t show symptoms of toxoplasmosis at all if they have the infection.
“Most healthy cats don’t develop any disease from a toxoplasma infection,” Dr. Bonk said. “Instead, their immune system keeps the numbers in check, and the cat lives normally.”
But if your cat has issues with his immune system, he might actually show some pretty serious symptoms of toxoplasmosis.
“However, in immunocompromised animals, those numbers can get out of hand and affect many different tissues and systems,” Dr. Bonk said. “Toxoplasmosis can cause issues with the eyes, lungs, liver, [and can result in] diarrhea or nervous system problems.”
Is there treatment for toxoplasmosis in cats?
Antibiotics are the typical treatment for toxoplasmosis in cats.
“Toxoplasmosis in cats is treated with the antibiotic clindamycin,” Dr. Bonk said. You’ll need a prescription for this medication, so be sure to chat with your vet first.
And sometimes clindamycin alone might not be enough to safely treat your cat’s toxoplasmosis.
“Steroids may also be given if there is significant inflammation, and supportive care, such as fluids, should be given as well,” Dr. Bonk said.
How can you prevent toxoplasmosis in cats?
The main way to prevent toxoplasmosis in cats is to discourage your own cat from chasing down other animals.
“Prevention of toxoplasmosis is best done by keeping your cat from hunting,” Dr. Bonk said. “Since infection requires ingestion of an infected animal, feeding your cat commercial cat food and not allowing them to eat rodents will keep them from getting infected.”
And staying on top of your cat’s litter box maintenance will prevent him from getting infected through poop if you have a multi-cat household.
“If you have a cat in your household with toxoplasmosis, keep them separate from others until they have cleared the infection,” Dr. Bonk said.
The bottom line is toxoplasmosis isn’t typically harmful to healthy adult cats, but it’s still important to know how your cat could get it so you can prevent him from ever having to deal with it.
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