Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii. Domestic and wild cats are the primary reservoir of infection. Consumption of uncooked meat can be a serious means of infection or transmission. Congenital infection is a common concern of pregnant women who own cats and who do not understand or know the facts about this disease. Most cats infected with this disease do not show any signs. Symptoms of this disease are loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, fever, depression, pneumonia, hepatitis, pancreatitis, enlarged lymph nodes, eye disorders, and nervous disorders to name a few.
A blood titer that is high can serve as a preliminary diagnosis of toxoplasmosis, but definitive diagnosis requires microscopic identification of the parasite. The presence of significant antibody levels in a normal cat suggests that the cat was previously infected and is probably not shedding now. The absence of a significant antibody level would suggest that the cat is susceptible to infection and could shed the parasite for 1-2 weeks if infected.
This disease can be treated with appropriate medication. A vaccine is not yet available for prevention of this disease.
Transmission to humans is usually due to consumption of uncooked meats. Of greatest concern is congenital infection. The majority of women infected during pregnancy do not have symptoms themselves. Fetal infection is most common if maternal infection occurred during the third trimester.
The following recommendations will help minimize exposure.
- cover sandboxes.
- avoid contact with potentially contaminated soil.
- clean litter boxes daily, someone in household not pregnant, preferably male.
- thoroughly cook meat.
- wash hands routinely.
The de la Houssaye Animal Hospital does not advocate getting rid of your pet cat if you wish to have children. We would be very happy to discuss this disease with you if you have concerns.