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Toxoplasmosis in Cats

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite like giardia. Related to the coccidian protozoa, all warm-blooded animals are at risk of Toxoplasma gondii infection, including cats. Today, our Renton vets discuss the toxoplasmosis disease in cats, the symptoms, and available treatment options.

Toxoplasmosis & Cats

Toxoplasmosis is one of the most common parasitic diseases that can infect nearly all warm-blooded animals, including pets and humans. While cats are essential for the life cycle of Toxoplasmosis gondii, the parasite typically does not cause clinical disease in them. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified toxoplasmosis as one of five neglected parasitic infections in people due to its high prevalence, with over 60 million individuals in the U.S. estimated to be infected.

What is the lifecycle of Toxoplasmosis gondii?

Toxoplasmosis gondii has a complex lifecycle that involves both definitive and intermediate hosts. The parasite reproduces sexually in the intestines of definitive hosts, such as cats, and produces oocysts that are shed in their feces. These oocysts can then be ingested by intermediate hosts, such as rodents or birds, where they develop into tissue cysts.

What are the signs of Toxoplasmosis?

Before we begin, we should clarify that Toxoplasmosis gondii is a parasite, which causes the Toxoplasmosis disease.

Feline patients have no symptoms of Toxoplasmosis gondii. Occasionally, however, the clinical disease toxoplasmosis can occur. This usually happens when the cat’s immune response cannot stop the spread of the parasite. The disease is more likely to occur in cats with suppressed immune systems, including young kittens and cats with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

The most common symptoms of toxoplasmosis include fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Other symptoms may occur depending on whether the infection is acute or chronic and the location of the parasite in the body. 

In the lungs, it can lead to pneumonia, which will cause difficulty breathing that gradually worsens. In the liver, it may cause a yellowish tinge to the skin and mucous membranes (jaundice). It can also cause changes in personality, such as hypersensitivity to touch, abnormal pupil size and response to light, blindness, lack of coordination, circling, head pressing, ear twitching, seizures, and loss of control over urinating and defecating.

Can Toxoplasmosis affect a cat's eyes?

Toxoplasmosis can indeed affect a cat's eyes, causing symptoms such as inflammation, redness, and even vision problems. This parasitic infection can lead to conditions like uveitis or chorioretinitis in cats, which can result in discomfort and potential long-term damage if left untreated.

It is important for cat owners to monitor their pet's eye health and seek veterinary care if any concerning symptoms arise to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment of toxoplasmosis-related eye issues.

Is there treatment for Toxoplasmosis in cats?

The most common treatment involves administering antibiotics such as clindamycin or sulfadiazine to help eliminate the parasite from the cat's system. In severe cases, additional medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms such as seizures or respiratory distress. It is important to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your cat's specific needs.

For Toxoplasmosis affecting the eye, treatment is more or less the same and typically involves a combination of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and supportive care. Antibiotics target the parasite causing the infection. Anti-inflammatory medications may also be used to reduce inflammation and discomfort in the affected eye.

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove scar tissue or address complications, such as retinal detachment. It is important for cat owners to follow their veterinarian's instructions closely and monitor their cat's progress during treatment. Regular follow-up appointments may be needed to assess the effectiveness of the treatment and make any necessary adjustments.

Note: Northwest Animal Eye Specialists specializes in treating eye conditions and illnesses. The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical or behavioral advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

If your cat is showing signs of Toxoplasmosis, contact Northwest Animal Eye Specialists right away. It's important that we get your cat on antibiotics and start treatment as soon as possible to avoid other complications.

New Patients Welcome By Referral

We are accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the eye health of animals. Talk to your vet today about getting a referral to Northwest Animal Eye Specialists serving patients from Renton, Kirkland, and the surrounding areas.

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