Toxoplasmosis is a highly contagious parasitic infection that can live in cats and be passed from cats to humans through faeces. Cats can become infected with the parasite by digging in infected soil or eating cat faeces or infected raw meat. Kittens can be born with toxoplasmosis if their mother was infected during pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis can cause dehydration, which can lead to organ failure, and can be life-threatening to your cat. Infected cats can experience degradation of their nervous system and require prompt treatment to give them the best chance of recovery. Here's what you need to know about this serious infection:
Symptoms of toxoplasmosis infection in cats include the following:
- Lack of co-ordination and balance
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Eye inflammation
Your vet can diagnose toxoplasmosis by taking details of your cat's symptoms and organising routine tests. Blood tests can determine if your cat has low white blood cells, raised liver enzyme levels or low levels of protein in their blood, all of which indicate toxoplasmosis. Blood tests can also indicate raised inflammatory markers, which can be a sign your cat's immune system is trying to fight off an infection. Additionally, a urinalysis can be used to establish if your cat is dehydrated and assess how their kidneys are functioning. Your vet may also organise a chest X-ray to determine if your cat's lungs have been damaged. A sample of lung fluid, extracted by inserting a long needle into your cat's chest cavity, can confirm the presence of the parasite in your cat's body and is relatively painless for your cat.
Once your vet is confident your cat's symptoms are due to toxoplasmosis, they will prescribe antibiotics to control the infection and prevent symptoms from worsening. They may want your cat to stay at the clinic until treatment is complete, which will allow them to regularly monitor your cat's well-being and response to treatment. The vet will also give your cat intravenous fluids to combat dehydration and support their organs.
Your vet will advise you on how to minimise the risk of toxoplasmosis being transmitted to you or any members of your household while your cat is sick. For example, it's wise to wear gloves and a protective face mask when changing your cat's litter box, and pregnant women should avoid changing litter boxes as toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects and miscarriage.
The success of treatment is dependent on how sick your cat was before they started the antibiotics, so don't delay taking your cat to the vet if they are displaying any of the symptoms associated with toxoplasmosis.