What measures should be taken if a pet tests positive for toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a single celled parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. It is found in cats and other warm-blooded animals including humans. People can become infected by ingesting the parasite, most often from contact with cat feces or from contaminated food, soil, or water. Pets can sometimes show mild or no signs of illness, but in some cases, they can develop more severe or chronic signs. Raw or undercooked meat can also contain the parasite and can cause infection in people and pets.
Understanding Toxoplasmosis in Pets
All cats can carry the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis and can shed the eggs of the parasite from their feces. Therefore, contact with cat feces should be avoided. Although cats living in households are very unlikely to get toxoplasmosis, cats that roam outdoors can become infected.
Infected cats and other animals may show no signs of infection or only mild signs, such as poor appetite, weight loss, or fever. However, symptoms can become more severe and include seizures, blindness, liver failure, and breathing problems.
To prevent the spread of toxoplasmosis from cats to pets and people:
- Regularly clean the litter box, using gloves and disposing of the waste in a secure place, such as a covered trash container.
- Feed cats only canned or dry commercial cat food, not raw or undercooked meat.
- Keep cats indoors, to keep them safe from predators and the environment.
- Wash your hands after handling the litter box or any soiled areas in the environment where cats live.
Toxoplasmosis and Human Health
Toxoplasmosis infection that is acquired from cats or other animals can be passed on to humans and can cause mild to severe health issues. It is especially dangerous for pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. To help reduce the risk of infection from the parasite, the following precautions should be taken:
- Always wear gloves when working with soil or contact with cat feces.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after touching soil or cat feces.
- Cook meat thoroughly and avoid raw or undercooked meat.
- Stay away from stray cats. Affected cats may shed the parasite in their feces.
It is important to remember that the risk of toxoplasmosis transmission is low, but it is important to be aware of the health risks and take appropriate precautions. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.