If you are a pet owner, you may have heard of toxoplasmosis before. If you don’t, keep a close eye on what your pet is doing or consuming, they can be at risk too.
Toxoplasmosis isn’t an extremely common disease, but it can affect any warm-blooded mammal. That means if your pet has become infected, you can be at risk too. Though, you’re probably not willing to do what it takes to get infected.
Read below about what is toxoplasmosis and how to protect your household from it.
What is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). It’s a single cell organism, and therefore, a parasite. Although it does not always cause symptoms, it can impact some people and animals badly.
Can People Get Toxoplasmosis?
All warm-blooded mammals, including people can get toxoplasmosis. Cats can have this infection without showing symptoms. So, it’s possible to contract toxoplasmosis from cats that aren’t obviously sick.
According to VCA
, “Although toxoplasmosis is a relatively common infection, it usually causes no disease in infected cats. However, if the cat is immunocompromised and its immune system is not working properly, Toxoplasma may continue to replicate, spread, and cause damage to tissues. When this happens, a variety of different clinical problems can develop including eye disease, respiratory disease, diarrhea, liver disease, and neurological signs, depending on which tissues are affected.”
Now that we know where it comes from, how does it spread?
How does Toxoplasmosis Spread?
Cats usually get toxoplasmosis from eating infected meat. This meat is known as the “intermediate host.” This is usually some kind of rodent. Then, the organism will replicate in the gut of the cat and create eggs. Cats are necessary for this process. These eggs can survive outside of the body for days and even months.
What are the Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis in People and Pets?
It’s hard to diagnose cats with toxoplasmosis without blood work. For the most part, they don’t exhibit any symptoms unless they already have poor immune systems.
- Inflammation of the eyes
- Loss of hunger
- Muscle weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
Dogs suffer from one of three varieties of toxoplasmosis including: acute, chronic and fetal. Lab results are essential to diagnosis. Acute toxoplasmosis occurs when the dog ingests infected meat or feces. Chronic toxoplasmosis continues to flare up even after the initial illness. Fetal toxoplasmosis occurs when a pregnant dog has the disease and can pass it to her babies.
Most people infected don’t even know they have toxoplasmosis. They may just think they are sick with the flu or a cold. According to the CDC
, “Severe toxoplasmosis, causing damage to the brain, eyes, or other organs, can develop from an acute Toxoplasma infection or one that had occurred earlier in life and is now reactivated. Severe toxoplasmosis is more likely in individuals who have weak immune systems, though occasionally, even persons with healthy immune systems may experience eye damage from toxoplasmosis.”
How to Treat Toxoplasmosis
While there is no cure for toxoplasmosis in cats, there are medications and antibiotics a vet might prescribe to prevent the disease from spreading. In general, cats respond well to these treatments.
If your dog is struggling with severe symptoms, your dog’s immune system may be compromised. Antibiotics and other meds may be prescribed to your dog. If they are suffering from dehydration, an IV may be in order. The main thing your pet needs is rest and to stay away from other pets.
Most people don’t require treatment for toxoplasmosis. For those with severe symptoms, medications are given. The Mayo Clinic
says the following medication is common, “Pyrimethamine (Daraprim). This medication, typically used for malaria, is a folic acid antagonist. It may prevent your body from absorbing the B vitamin folate (folic acid, vitamin B-9), especially when you take high doses over a long period. For that reason, your doctor may recommend taking additional folic acid. Other potential side effects of pyrimethamine include bone marrow suppression and liver toxicity.”
How to Avoid Toxoplasmosis
Avoiding toxoplasmosis is as easy!
- Be sanitary when handling meat for eating and cook to at least 160 degrees to kill bacteria.
- Wash all vegetables well before eating.
- Wear gloves when handling pet feces.
- Empty litter boxes every day.
- Don’t let your pets hunt and eat raw meat.
- Don’t let cats or other animals poop in sandboxes.
We hope this answers your question, “What is toxoplasmosis?” Education is the first step to protecting yourself! Consult a doctor and vet if you’re concerned that you or your pet has toxoplasmosis.