What is it?
An infection caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii.
Who is susceptible to it?
Can infect almost any warm-blooded animal or bird, and humans.
How does it spread?
Cats only pass the eggs in their feces for a few weeks after becoming infected. The eggs must be in the environment 1to 5 days before they are infective. The eggs are then ingested by other animals (rodents, birds, dogs, humans), and cause disease. T. gondiican also be transmitted in utero and through the milk. In summary, the main sources of infection for a cat are uncooked meat (usually pork), infected prey, or as kittens in uteroor through the milk. Humans, dogs, and other mammals usually become infected through meat, raw milk from infected goats, and accidental ingestion of cat's fecal material.
Time line from exposure to signs?
What are the symptoms?
The signs in pets are nonspecific: fever, loss of appetite, depression. In the eye, it can cause inflammation; in the lungs, pneumonia; in the heart, arrhythmias; in the digestive tract, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain; in the nervous system, seizures, paralysisand loss of function; in muscle, a stiff gait and loss of muscle. Kittens may be born stillborn or ill.
Is there a test for it?
Yes, two blood samples are collected (the first collected while the animal is sick and the second collected 3 weeks later) and sent out to the laboratory.
How is it treated?
An antibiotic called Clindamycin is the treatment of choice for toxoplasmosis. About 60% of pets that have toxoplasmosis can recover with treatment. Recovery is less likely in animals that are young or have severe suppression of their immune systems
Cleaning the environment?
The eggs can survive several years in the environment and are resistant to most disinfectants. Feces should be removed from the litter box daily (not allowing 5 days for the eggs to become infective) and disposed of properly. Clean the litter boxes regularly with boiling or scalding water. Dogs should not be allowed access to litter boxes.
Is there a vaccine? No.
Risk for humans?
In the United States, people are much more likely to become infected through eating raw meat than from handling cat feces.Humans can become infected either in utero, or by accidental ingestion of eggs. Infections early in the pregnancy can cause abortion. If the infection occurs later in pregnancy the infant may have serious or fatal congenital defects including blindness, and mental retardation. Most infected pregnant women do not have symptoms. People infected through ingestion of eggs may be listless, have fever, enlarged lymph nodes and less commonly, inflammation of the heart. It can cause severe disease in persons with poorimmune systemssuch as those undergoing chemotherapy or infected with human AIDS.