Toxoplasma gondii is one of many types of protozoan parasites like giardia. These parasites are able to infect any warm-blooded animal including your pets. Today our Lacey vets talk about Toxoplasma gondii and share some information that you should know about this parasite.
Toxoplasmosis in Pets
Toxoplasmosis for the most part may be completely asymptomatic in both pets and people. While it may also pose no threat to those with a healthy immune system, Toxoplasma gondii can have devastating effects on people and animals that are immunocompromised or are pregnant. While difficult to diagnose, our team uses our vet lab to perform blood tests that may help to diagnose the infection allowing for treatment.
Toxoplasma Gondii Parasite and its Lifecycle
While dogs and humans are able to carry this parasite, it is only cats that will become definitively infected. Essentially, the parasite thrives within cats but will hitch a ride in their canine or human roommates to try and find another suitable definitive host. An infected feline will pass feces with eggs inside it - consumption of these feces spreads the parasite to intermediate hosts who will then carry it until a new feline host consumes them and the parasite can begin its lifecycle all over again.
How is Toxoplasma Gondii Contracted?
There are a number of ways that the eggs can be shed once your cat passes them and they are infectious:
- You can contract the parasite from your cat through direct contact with their feces while you clean the litter box. Be sure to always wash your hands afterward.
- Through contact with infected feces in sandboxes. If you have a sandbox outside you should be sure to cover it to deter cats from using it as a litterbox.
- Unclean garden vegetables or fruit. If a cat's contaminated feces infects the soil around the garden then the parasites have a chance of infecting through the consumption of vegetables.
- Meat such as lamb, pork, and venison are at a high risk of being infected with Toxoplasma gondii. Always make sure to cook your food to the recommended internal temperature for each type of meat.
- Drinking contaminated water – while contaminated water is uncommon in the United States now, it is essential to be aware of any 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
While most pets will not experience any symptoms while infected with Toxoplasma gondii, pets with compromised immune systems can be in serious danger.
Symptoms of a pet experiencing a dangerous case of Toxoplasmosis include:
- Eye Discharge
- Respiratory concerns
- Liver Disease
- Neurological Disorders
Toxoplasma gondii is known to affect humans much the same way as it affects our pets.
If you are a healthy person then you should continue to be asymptomatic throughout the infection. However, this parasite can continue to replicate in those who are immunocompromised, with the potential to be fatal.
Pregnant women that have been exposed to the parasite after becoming pregnant have an increased risk of birth defects and miscarriages.
If your pet is showing any of the symptoms of Toxoplasma gondii or other parasites, it will be crucial to the health of your dog or cat, you and your family to bring them in for blood tests at our veterinary laboratory in Lacey.
Treatment Options for Toxoplasmosis
One issue with Toxoplasma gondii is that it can be difficult to diagnose. Our vets can run blood tests using our veterinary diagnostics lab but unless the cat has been infected recently the results may come back inconclusive.
On the other hand, a positive blood test does not verify if the parasite is still currently present, or if it is currently active. If Toxoplasmosis is diagnosed using our veterinary laboratory, it is important for your cat to start treatment on antibiotics immediately. Your vet can provide these antibiotics using our on-site veterinary pharmacy.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.