Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which can affect a wide variety of animals, including cats. Although this disease is not usually serious in cats, it can be dangerous for people with weakened immune systems or pregnant women, as it can cause serious problems for the fetus.
In this article, we will further explore what toxoplasmosis is, how it is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and how it is treated in cats. If you are a cat lover and are interested in learning more about this disease, keep reading!
What is and what causes toxoplasmosis in cats?
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which can affect a wide variety of animals, including cats. Cats can contract the disease by eating raw or undercooked meat that is infected with the parasite, or by ingesting food or water contaminated with the feces of other animals infected with T. gondii. In addition, cats can also contract the disease by hunting and eating infected prey, such as birds or rodents.
Once the parasite enters the cat's body, it reproduces and multiplies in the cat's small intestine, and then spreads throughout the body. In most cases, infected cats show no signs of disease, but they can shed the parasite in their feces for several weeks after infection, which can pose a risk to other animals and people.
What if a cat has toxoplasmosis?
In most cases, cats with toxoplasmosis have no or mild symptoms and do not need treatment. In fact, many cats are asymptomatic carriers of Toxoplasma gondii for their entire lives without the infection being detected. However, in rare cases, toxoplasmosis can cause health problems in cats, including diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, lethargy, and respiratory or neurological problems. If your cat exhibits any of these symptoms, you should take him to the vet for treatment.
It is important to note that cats infected with Toxoplasma gondii can shed the parasite in their feces for several weeks after infection, posing a potential risk to other animals and to people, especially those with weakened immune systems or pregnant women. . If you suspect your cat has toxoplasmosis, you should take steps to avoid exposure to the animal's feces and consult a veterinarian for more information on how to manage the infection.
Test to detect toxoplasma gondii in cats
There are various tests that can be used to detect the presence of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite in cats, including serological tests and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests.
Also known as antibody tests, they measure the cat's immune response to the parasite and can indicate whether the animal has been exposed to the parasite in the past. The most common serologic tests include the indirect immunofluorescence test (IFA) and the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test. However, these tests cannot determine if the cat is shedding the parasite in its feces at the time of the test.
On the other hand, they can detect the presence of the parasite's DNA in the cat's feces. These tests are very sensitive and specific and can detect the presence of the parasite even in cats that are not shedding large numbers of parasites in their feces. PCR tests can be particularly useful in cases of acute infection or to confirm the presence of the parasite in cats that have tested positive on serological tests.
In general, the choice of test will depend on the individual situation and the need for specific information. If you have concerns about your cat's possible infection with Toxoplasma gondii, it's best to consult with your veterinarian to determine which test is most appropriate for your pet.
Symptoms toxoplasmosis in cats
The severity of the clinical signs that a cat suffering from toxoplasmosis may present will depend on the cycle in which the parasite is found. During the entero-epithelial cycle, our kitten may have mild symptoms, such as diarrhea or vomiting.
On the other hand, if the microorganism is in the extraintestinal cycle, cell necrosis can be generated, which would bring more serious consequences, such as dyspnea, fever, apathy, anorexia, seizures, ataxia, respiratory distress, jaundice, pancreatitis, uveitis, encephalitis, muscle pain, lameness, lymphadenopathy or retinochoroiditis, among other symptoms.
Is there treatment for toxoplasma gonjii?
If we suspect that our cat may have toxoplasmosis, it is essential that we go to his veterinarian as soon as possible so that they can carry out the relevant diagnostic tests and thus proceed to administer the most appropriate treatment.
Although the parasite cannot be completely eliminated from the cat's body, the symptoms it entails can be eliminated by applying certain drugs. The most used by specialists are:
Topical clindamycinWith this medication, which is administered to cats with toxoplasmosis, the symptoms quickly reverse, except for eye problems caused by the parasite. It is recommended to give them a dose of 10 to 12 mg/kg every 12 hours orally for 30 days.
Topical or systemic corticosteroidsIn addition to the clindamycin dose recommended above, in case of eye injuries such as glaucoma or luxated lens, it is recommended to also add corticosteroid drops to your eyes, for example, prednisolone acetate, every 6 to 8 hours.
How to prevent toxoplasmosis in cats?
The contagion of toxoplasmosis occurs more frequently in cats that live in rural environments, since their hunting instinct leads them to eat the meat of mice, birds and insects, which increases their risk of infection. However, if your cat is domestic, the transmission of the parasite can be prevented by following some very simple prevention measures:
- Never give raw meat.
- Vaccination: another measure to take into account to prevent infection would be to inoculate the cat with the virulent toxoplasma strain. It is a vaccine that is not commercialized and that is in the experimental phase, so it is essential to consult your veterinarian about this option to find out if the treatment is appropriate.
- Extreme hygiene and environmental sanitation of the home. This is a super important basic aspect. I invite you to read the article Grooming and Hygiene for cats: What you should know
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In conclusion, toxoplasmosis is a potentially serious disease that can be transmitted from cats to humans, but it should not be a reason to panic or abandon our feline pets. With good hygiene and care, it is possible to prevent infection and live with our cat friends in a safe and healthy way. It is important to remember that cats are not the only transmitters of the disease and that humans can often become infected from other sources. Ultimately, the most important thing is to be informed and take the necessary steps to protect our health and that of our loved ones, including our beloved pets.