Foothill Felines marble Bengal kitten.
|(PLEASE NOTE: We are NOT veterinarians!! However, we want to share our personal research and experiences regarding these important feline health issues with other cat-lovers!! We will be updating this page often!! Send us your ideas and any comments!!)|
How do you find out that your cat has Toxoplasmosis?? Often, there are no clinical signs to this disease in cats. On occasion, there are some early non-specific symptoms such as lethargy, depression, loss of appetite and fever, especially in kittens and young adult cats. The most outstanding sign in most cats is feline pneumonia, which shows up as respiratory distress that continues to increase in severity. Toxoplasmosis can also affect the eyes and the central nervous system, producing inflammation of the retina, possible abnormal pupil size, and even blindness, lack of coordination, personality changes, circling, head pressing, ear twitching, seizures, difficulty in chewing and swallowing food, seizures, and loss of control over urination and defecation functions. Hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, can also occur which can bring about episodes of vomiting, diarrhea, prostration and jaundice, which is yellowing of the mucous membranes. The pancreas can also become inflamed and the lymph nodes may become enlarged.
What is "Toxoplasmosis"?? Toxoplasmosis is a disease of cats and other mammals caused by a parasitic protozoan, "Toxoplasma gondii". Toxoplasma infection is fairly common, yet the actual disease caused by these single-celled organisms is relatively rare. There are three infective stages of this parasite; cyst, oocyst, and tachyzoite. When a cat ingests cyxts in infected prey such as rodents or birds, the intra-intestinal infection cycle begins, which only occurs in cats. The organisms multiply in the wall of the cat's small intestine and produce oocysts, which are then excreted in large numbers in the feces for two to three weeks. Within five days the shed oocysts may sporulate, becoming infectious to other animals and to humans. Sporulated oocysts are highly resistant to environmental conditions and can survive in moist shaded soil or sand for many months! During this cycle in the cat, some Toxoplasma organisms released from the ingested cysts penetrate more deeply into the wall of the intestine and multiply as tachyzoite forms, and very soon these tachyzoites spread out to other body sites, which starts the extra-intestinal infection cycle. When the cat's immune system restrains this stage of the organism, the organism enters a dormant stage by forming cysts in the muscles and brain of the animal. Most cysts probably remain dormant for the life of the host, and the extra-intestinal infection cycle occurs in all the intermediate hosts (including humans).
How do cats contract Toxoplasmosis?? Eating tissue cysts in infected prey or in other raw meat is probably the most common way cats are exposed to Toxoplasmosis. Congenital infection, i.e. transmission from mother to fetus, does occur in sheep, goats, and humans, but is much less common in cats.
How do I treat my cat for Toxoplasmosis?? Currently, there is no vaccination for this disease, but there are two drugs that are often used successfully, and they are Pyrimethamine and Sulfadiazine, used together. Treatment must be started as soon as possible after diagnosis and continued for several days after signs have disappeared. With some cats, pyrimethamine may be very unpalatable or even toxic, and there is a new antibiotic called Clindamycin that looks promising and should be tried for those cats having a reaction to pyrimethamine.
How do humans contract Toxoplasmosis?? Believe it or not, estimates show that 30 to 50 percent of the world's human population has been infected with Toxoplasma and harbors the clinically "dormant" cyst form. This is important because, if given the opportunity, it can produce disease in humans who are immune-suppressed or immune-compromised. Most mammals including humans contract the disease due to contact with oocyst-contaminated soil (remember, the feces of cats in the intra-intestinal stage of Toxoplasmosis), and also, for humans in industrialized nations, from eating undercooked infected meat, and lamb and pork in particular. This organism may also be present in some unpasteurized dairy products such as goats milk.
Is Toxoplasmosis dangerous to humans?? It has been estimated that Toxoplasma is responsible for over three thousand human congenital infections in the United States each year, most of which are without symptoms. For the individuals that do have symptoms, these symptoms may appear at birth, or may first appear weeks, months, or even years later, usually at puberty. Some of the more common clinical signs are ocular and central-nervous-system disturbances, deafness, fever, jaundice, rash, respiratory disease and heart disease. For patients with AIDS or who are immuno-suppressed due to cancer or organ tranplantation treatments, this can be a fatal disease. About one-third to one-half of human infants born to mothers who have acquired Toxoplasma during that pregnancy are infected; generally the infection of the fetus is least common but the disease is most severe if the maternal infection occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy.
How can I protect myself and my family from Toxoplasmosis?? Tissue cysts can be destroyed by thoroughly cooking meat to an internal temperature of 70 degrees C (158 degrees F) for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Do not rely on freezing and thawing, salting, smoking, or pickling to destroy cysts in meat. Do not allow your cat to have access to rodents and birds. Scavenging can be discouraged by placing tightly fitting lids on all garbage cans. Do be careful of possible contaminated garden soil, flower beds, children's sandboxes, cats' litter boxes and other areas where cats may defecate. When contact cannot be avoided, wear rubber gloves and wash hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water. Dispose of feces from litter boxes daily to remove any oocysts before they sporulate and become infective. Cover children's sand boxes to keep cats out. Avoid handling (particularly women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant) free-roaming cats and any cat showing signs of illness. All uncooked vegetables should be washed thoroughly before ingestion. Make a habit of thoroughly and vigorously washing hands with antibacterial soap and water after contact with soil, cats, un-pasteurized dairy products or uncooked meat or vegetables. If contemplating pregnancy, women should have themselves tested for antibodies. A positive test would indicate past infection that will not be transmitted to the fetus. An anti-body negative woman would be at greater risk of transmitting Toxoplasma to the fetus SHOULD she become infected during pregnancy.
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