August 22, 2018 |0 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed
Cat Toxoplasmosis: The Deadly Parasite
You might have heard of cat toxoplasmosis, but did you know it's a parasitic infection, just like worms or fleas? It lives out its life cycle in warm-blooded creatures, and unfortunately, one of its favorite homes is our beloved pet cats. It can be picked up from raw food, soil, and the feces of infected animals.
We know how distressing it is when your pets are sick, especially when you're unsure of the cause. Use our quick guide to look out for symptoms of cat toxoplasmosis, and learn what your vet might do if they suspect the parasite is present.
Symptoms of Cat Toxoplasmosis
Cats are very good at hiding when they are ill or in pain, so it can be difficult to notice when their health has changed. Symptoms of cat toxoplasmosis include lethargy and depression, so you might notice that your usually playful cat is suddenly disinterested in toys or affection. A cat may also have a fever, or suffer from unexplained weight loss. An infected cat may have trouble breathing or seem unsteady on its feet. Cats may also suffer from inflamed eyes or throat, and the whites of the eyes may appear yellowish. In severe cases, muscle weakness and paralysis can occur. If the symptoms are not treated, the parasite can be fatal, particularly in very young cats and kittens or cats with compromised immune systems.
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Diagnosing Cat Toxoplasmosis
Your vet will check your cat’s health history and do a full physical checkup. They will need to know when the symptoms started and how sever they have been, so be sure to have this information on hand. Normally, blood and urine tests are taken. The vet will be checking your cat's white blood cell count, as well as other factors which may indicate if the parasitic infection is present.
The vet may ask you for a stool sample from your cat’s litter tray. This is because the parasite eggs come out in the cat’s feces, so it’s a surefire way to diagnose if it is actually cat toxoplasmosis that’s causing your pet’s health problems. Your vet may also perform tests designed to check for antibodies that fight the infection. Cats with breathing issues may have a chest x-ray, or the vet might take a small amount of fluid from the lungs for testing.
Treatment and Prevention of Toxoplasmosis
In severe cases, your cat may need to stay with your vet on IV fluids to be rehydrated. Antibiotics are usually given, and you’ll be advised on proper nutrition to help your cat fight the symptoms of the infection.
Of course, prevention is better than cure. Don’t feed your cat raw meat, as toxoplasmosis can be spread this way. Wash your hands after gardening, and encourage kids to wash their hands after playing outside. One of the best ways to keep your cat healthy and parasite free is through excellent hygiene. If you have kids, make sure you keep sand pits or sandy play areas covered. This prevents neighbor cats from soiling in the sand and exposing your kitty to toxoplasmosis.
Keep the litter tray clean and fresh, and remove solids regularly to help prevent cat toxoplasmosis spores from developing. PrettyLitter helps keep the tray hygienic and can even indicate when your cat’s health is under threat, so if you notice the litter changing color, it could be time to speak to your vet.
Although cat toxoplasmosis can be scary, with this short guide you now know what to look out for, and how to help prevent the spread of this parasitic invader.