Toxoplasmosis: Cats Can Stay When Baby Is On The Way
Q: ln the past, pregnant women were advised to get rid of their cats because of the potential for disease to be transmitted to an unborn fetus. ls this an Old Wives Tale or something that pet owners need to be concerned about?
The biggest concern with regard to pregnant women and cats is toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by a parasite that can cause severe deformities in unborn babies.
Although cats are the only animal that can transmit this disease directly to people, there is no documented correlation between toxoplasmosis and cat ownership. Toxoplasmosis is spread in two ways: by consuming raw or undercooked meat containing the organism and by ingesting infective eggs shed in the feces of a recently infected cat. Avoiding the first means of catching this disease is simple: dont eat raw or undercooked meat. The freezing process will kill the parasite, so frozen meat is safe to eat. By understanding how the parasite is spread by cats, you can also easily avoid contamination from cat feces without giving up contact with felines during pregnancy.
In the past, it was common medical advice for pregnant or immuno-suppressed people, AIDS and cancer patients, people with autoimmune disease, to part with their cats. Now we know that in most cases, this is unnecessary. Many cat owners consider their cats indispensable members of the family. Luckily, there are simple ways to manage your actions and your contact with pets and still ensure that you and your baby remain healthy.
Effects Of Toxoplasmosis On Unborn Babies
If newborn babies are infected, at worst, they will only suffer from mild illness. However, toxoplasmosis in pregnancy can expose babies in the womb to the parasite and this is potentially more serious. If a woman contracts toxoplasmosis for the first time while pregnant, the parasites may affect the baby through the placenta.Most unborn babies arent affected at all, but a minority may be harmed by infection. Effects of toxoplasmosis on unborn babies can include:
- Skin rashes
- Fetal death .
Symptoms Of Toxoplasmosis In Cats
Bearing in mind that cats are carriers of the infection, they usually dont exhibit any symptoms of toxoplasmosis. Why? Because they develop immunity to the parasite. However, that doesnt mean signs of symptoms are impossible. Some cats do experience some manifestations of the infection.
Cats that arent immune to the parasite can develop symptoms such as diarrhea and loss of appetite. As mentioned above, the parasite can reach the cats nervous system, liver, lungs, and other organs.
Of course, the infected cat may develop some health problems depending on the affected organ. For example, if the parasite affects the lungs, then the cat may struggle with respiratory problems. In instances when parasite reaches the cats eyes, then vision problems may occur .
Kittens that are still in their mothers womb are the most vulnerable. Infected mothers can transmit the infection to their kittens. Little ones are more likely to exhibit signs and symptoms of toxoplasmosis than adult cats.
Its important to mention that a vast majority of cats will be permanently infected with the T. gondii parasite, but many of them wont show signs of the disease. Although rarely happens, some cats may die due to the severity of the infection.
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How Is Toxoplasma Transmitted
Cats are usually infected by ingesting the organism present in the meat of another infected animal, known as an ‘intermediate host’. The intermediate host is usually a rodent. After infection, the Toxoplasma organism replicates, or reproduces locally in the intestinal tract of the cat, and is usually contained there. The replication in the intestinal tract results in shedding of oocysts in the feces. Cats are the only definitive hosts for T. gondii, which means that the organism can only produce oocysts when infecting a cat.
“Oocysts represent a hardy form of the organism that can survive in the external environment for many months or even years.”
Oocysts represent a hardy form of the organism that can survive in the external environment for many months or even years. Other animals can become infected by ingesting these oocysts, but disease will result only if large numbers are ingested.
In some cats, particularly if their immune defenses are compromised, Toxoplasma can invade beyond the intestine and spread into other internal organs of the cats body. In the internal organs, they may cause enough damage to cause signs of disease, or may become dormant in a tissue cyst. A tissue cyst is different than the oocyst. Tissue cysts can be infective if the infected tissue is eaten by another animal.
How Common Is Toxoplasmosis And Who Catches It
About 350 cases of toxoplasma infection are diagnosed ih the UK every year. The actual number of infected people is likely to be higher, as toxoplasma often causes no symptoms and the person may be unaware that they have caught it. It is more common in hot damp countries where conditions are more favourable for the survival of the oocysts.
Anyone can become infected with toxoplasma – adults and children, men and women.
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Toxoplasmosis In Cats Prevention
Preventing toxoplasmosis in cats involve measures intended to reduce the incidence of feline infections and subsequent shedding of oocysts into the environment. Kittens raised outdoors usually become infected just after they are weaned and began to hunt. Your cats should preferably be fed only dry and canned, commercially processed cat food. If meat is given, it should always be well-cooked, even if frozen before feeding.
Can A Pregnant Woman Be Infected With Toxoplasmosis
Of those who are infected however, very few have symptoms because a healthy persons immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness. However, pregnant women and individuals who have compromised immune systems should be cautious for them, a Toxoplasma infection could cause serious health problems. How do people get toxoplasmosis?
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Should I be screened for toxoplasmosis?
- Is it safe for me to keep and pet my cat while pregnant?
- Do I need treatment for toxoplasmosis?
- What medicines should I take and what are the side effects?
- How do I know if my unborn baby has toxoplasmosis?
- What are the possible health issues my unborn baby could have?
- Once I have toxoplasmosis, will I always have it?
- Am I at risk of having other health issues?
- My cat doesnt go outside. Could it still get toxoplasmosis?
- Is it safe for me to eat rare meat?
- How hot should the water be when I clean my cutting board?
- Is there a specific kind of cutting board that is safer to use?
- Are automatic litter boxes safer than regular litter boxes?
Precautions Against Toxoplasmosis For Your Household Cat
Cats are only infectious for a few weeks after ingesting the parasites and kittens are more likely to pass on the infection than older cats. Suggestions on reducing the risk of infection in your cat include:
- Keep your cat indoors whenever possible.
- Dont allow the cat to hunt and eat birds or other wildlife.
- Feed your cat canned or dry foods, instead of raw meat .
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Concluding Remarks On Toxoplasmosis In Cats
Feline toxoplasmosis is a common and severe disease of cats. You can also be affected by the protozoal organism from your cats. So it is a matter of great concern about the health of you, your family members, and the public health importance. The information I have given in the article will help you a lot.
How Does Toxoplasmosis Spread From Person To Person
Cats play an important role in the spread of toxoplasmosis. Cats play an important role in the spread of toxoplasmosis. They become infected by eating infected rodents, birds, or other small animals. The parasite is then passed in the cats feces. Kittens and cats can shed millions of parasites in their feces for as long as 3 weeks after infection.
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How Can Humans Avoid Infection
“…meat hygiene measures can greatly reduce the risk of human infection.”
Following a few sensible environmental and meat hygiene measures can greatly reduce the risk of human infection:
- Cook all meat thoroughly – at least 160-180°F throughout.
- Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces thoroughly after handling raw meat.
- Wash all vegetables carefully.
- Wear gloves when gardening in soil potentially contaminated by cat feces.
- Empty cat litterboxes daily, dispose of litter carefully, and disinfect with boiling water. It takes more than 24 hours for oocysts that are passed in the feces to develop into the infective stage. If the litterbox is sanitized daily, then even if a cat is excreting oocysts, they will not have become infectious by the time the litter is changed.
- Discourage pet cats from hunting, and avoid feeding them raw or undercooked meat.
- Cover children’s sand boxes to prevent cats using them as a litterbox.
How Do You Catch Toxoplasmosis
Whilst many animals can become infected with toxoplasma, cats are the main host. When a cat becomes infected, the toxoplasma invades the gut lining and starts to reproduce immature forms called oocysts. These pass out in the cat’s stools . You can then become infected by coming into contact with contaminated soil, water or food. You can, for example, become infected by:
- Eating undercooked or raw meat – particularly pork or lamb.
- Eating fruit or vegetables that have not been washed properly.
- Handling contaminated soil whilst gardening or contaminated cat litter.
Expectant mothers can pass toxoplasma to their unborn baby through the placenta . Rarely, toxoplasma can be passed from an infected organ donor to the person receiving the organ.
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How Common Is Toxoplasma In Cats
Toxoplasma occurs worldwide and infection in cats is similarly widespread. Many more cats are infected than show symptoms. In research studies, as many as one-half of adult cats in certain geographical areas have antibodies to the organism in their blood, indicating that they have been exposed to the infection at some point in their life. Infection rates are higher in free-roaming and stray cats.
In contrast, infection is uncommon in pet cats that do little or no hunting, and primarily or exclusively eat commercial cat foods. Despite the high number of cats infected with T. gondii, very few show significant clinical signs.
How Common Is Toxoplasmosis
In cats, infection with T gondii is much more common in outdoor cats that are active hunters, and in cats that are fed undercooked or raw meat. In general, depending on their lifestyle, between 20-60% of cats will be infected with T gondii, but very few of these will ever show clinical signs.
Similarly, in humans, it is estimated that more than 500 million people are infected worldwide, but again the vast majority of these result in no significant clinical signs. Human infection is more common in some countries than others. For example, in the USA and UK around 20-30% of people are infected at some point in their lives, whereas approximately 80% of people in France and Germany are infected. People who have been infected with T gondii develop antibodies against the organism and these can be detected in a blood test.
Once an animal has been infected with T gondii, it will probably remain infected for life, as the parasite can be present in microscopic cysts present in tissues where it will remain dormant, but hidden from the immune response.
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Top Best Answers To The Question Can Dogs Get Toxoplasmosis From Eating Cat Feces
When your pet consumes raw or uncooked meat, roadkill, cat feces, or gets in contact with anything that is contaminated with a certain parasite, your dog may get a toxoplasmosis infection. Toxoplasmosis can affect any warm-blooded animal, including dogs, cats, birds, and can also affect humans.
Those who are looking for an answer to the question «Can dogs get toxoplasmosis from eating cat feces?» often ask the followingquestions:
How Is Toxoplasmosis Treated
Your doctor may recommend not treating your toxoplasmosis if it isnt causing any symptoms. Most healthy people who develop an infection dont have any symptoms or develop mild symptoms that are self-limited.
If the disease is severe, is persistent, involves the eyes, or involves the internal organs, your doctor will typically prescribe pyrimethamine and sulfadiazine. Pyrimethamine is also used to treat malaria. Sulfadiazine is an antibiotic.
If you have HIV or AIDS, you may need to continue these medications for life. Pyrimethamine decreases your levels of folic acid, which is a type of B vitamin. Your doctor may also ask you to take additional vitamin B while taking the drug.
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Toxoplasmosis And Altered Human Behaviour
There is current interest in the possibility that infection with T gondii can be a potential cause of altered human behaviour, including schizophrenia and suicidal tendencies. While this is an important line of research, current information should be interpreted with caution because of the often small numbers of people studied and their different backgrounds. A cause and effect is far from being established with T gondii infection and these disorders and other factors may well have been responsible for some of the changes observed.
What Are The Sources Of Infection For People
In most cases, people become infected via one of two routes:
- Ingestion of oocysts from the environment
- Ingestion of meat containing tissue cysts. Fresh meat is most risky since freezing meat for several days will kill most tissue cysts.
Other routes of infection are less commonly implicated but include:
- Ingestion of sporulated oocysts through contact with contaminated water
- Ingestion of raw goats milk can transmit the organism
- Inhalation of sporulated oocysts on dust particles
- It is generally believed that infection cannot be transmitted by a bite or scratch from an infected cat.
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Important Information On Toxoplasmosis In Cats
Toxoplasmosis is a widespread and deadly disease of cats. There is significant public health importance of Feline Toxoplasmosis. As a cat owner, you must be cautious about the progress of the disease. In my article, I shall discuss the causes, transmission, clinical findings, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, public health hazards, and clinical manifestations in humans.
T Gondii And Human Pregnancy
If a pregnant woman is infected with T gondii during her pregnancy, there is a risk that the infection may spread to the unborn foetus. This will only happen if the woman is infected during pregnancy, and prior infections carry no such risk.
In around 20-50% of women infected during pregnancy, infection will be passed on to the foetus. In many cases, even if the foetus is infected, it will remain asymptomatic, but in a minority of cases the infection can result in abortion, birth defects, neurological problems or ocular problems. However, these problems can only occur if a woman contracts toxoplasmosis for the first time during her pregnancy.
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Treatment Of Toxoplasmosis In Cats
When your diagnosis of toxoplasmosis is confirmed, you should have to discuss your experts on whether treatment is necessary. Sulphadiazine and pyrimethamine are two drugs widely used in the treatment of human toxoplasmosis. Pyrimethamine may also be used to supplement clindamycin therapy. Besides, corticosteroids at anti-inflammatory doses can be beneficial adjacent to anti-protozoal therapy.
Appropriate supportive therapy, including physiotherapy, should be given for your cats. Other anti-Toxoplasma drugs include doxycycline, minocycline, azithromycin, and clarithromycin. Your cats with uveitis, you should be treated with anti-Toxoplasma drugs in combination with topical, oral, or parenteral corticosteroids to avoid secondary damage to the eye induced by inflammation.
Take Steps To Protect Yourself Against Toxoplasmosis
Even though it is unlikely that you will contract toxoplasmosis from your cat, it’s good to be as careful as possible. The following recommendations will help cat owners expecting a child to reduce their risk of contracting toxoplasmosis.
- Avoid undercooked meat.
- Wash all uncooked vegetables thoroughly.
- Wash all cutting boards and utensils that might have come in contact with meat before using them.
- Wear gloves when gardening or working in soil for other reasons. If you don’t wear gloves, wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
- Ask your spouse, friends, or neighbors to help out with litter box duties while you’re pregnant.
- If you don’t have help to keep the litter box clean, wear rubber gloves when changing the litter and thoroughly wash your hands afterward.
- Have your cat’s litter changed on a daily basis.
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Public Health Importance Of Toxoplasmosis
Toxoplasmosis is a zoonotic disease and can spread to humans from cats. The public health significance of the disease are as follows:
- Cats found to be spreading T. gondii oocysts should be hospitalized for this period and treated to eliminate shedding, mainly when a pregnant woman is present in the household. To prevent inadvertent environmental contamination, the cat owner should practice proper hygienic measures on a routine basis.
- Childrens sandboxes should be secured to prevent cats from defecating in them. Mechanical vectors such as sowbugs, earthworms, and houseflies, have been shown to contain oocysts, and cockroaches and snails are additional mechanical vectors.
- Sporulated oocysts resist most disinfectants, and only 10% ammonia is useful when it is in contact with contaminated surfaces for 10 minutes. Outbreaks of human infections had reported when oocyst-contaminated dust particles were inhaled or ingested.