Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease that rarely causes significant symptoms in cats but can be devastating to some humans. The common disease, which is caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, is transmissible to humans and may have adverse effects on fetal development when contracted by pregnant women. Humans with compromised immune systems and very young children are also at risk and should be isolated from infected cats.
Cats contract toxoplasmosis via transplacental transmission, which occurs when a pregnant cat infects her developing fetus, through ingestion of contaminated food or water or by eating rodents, birds, or other wildlife infected with the parasite. Kittens are more likely than adult cats to contract the infection; they are also more likely to experience severe effects.
Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis Infection:
Although many cats show no signs or symptoms of infection with toxoplasmosis, others may exhibit reduced appetite, depression, fever, and other symptoms specific to the organs affected by the parasite. When the lungs are affected, cough and rapid breathing may develop, and sensitivity to light may occur in cases that involve the eyes. Weight loss, jaundice, muscle pain, seizures, blindness, and other symptoms are also possible.
Diagnosing and Treating Toxoplasmosis in Cats:
Diagnosing the infection involves measuring the antibodies to the parasite in your cat’s blood. Other tests may include a fecal examination, chest X-rays, CSF analysis, an ocular examination, and a complete blood count. These tests can also help determine what organ systems are being most affected by the infection.
Treatment is with isolation, medication, and rest. Antibiotics, such as sulfonamides or clindamycin, help fight the infection, while anticonvulsants and intravenous fluids can minimize symptoms during recovery. Severely ill cats may require more intensive treatment and close monitoring during treatment.
To prevent reinfection, cats should eat only canned, dry, or cooked food, and cats prone to hunting potentially infected wildlife may need to wear bells on their collars to scare birds and other animals away. If you have other cats in your home, they will need to be examined for possible infection and treated if necessary.
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