Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that's easily passed to cats and humans from contact with infected faeces. Cats can also contract the infection from eating tainted raw meat, and kittens whose mother has toxoplasmosis can be born with it. This is a life-threatening illness that can cause damage to your cat's nervous system and organ failure due to severe dehydration. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach:
Cats infected with toxoplasmosis develop gastric upset soon after infection. When you are cleaning up vomit or changing their litter tray, wear gloves and a face mask to minimise the risk of contracting the infection. Loss of appetite and poor co-ordination are common symptoms, and you may notice your cat bumps into furniture or seems unsteady on their feet. In the later stages of infection, weight loss, shortness of breath and convulsions occur. If there's damage to the liver, your cat will develop jaundice, which will be noticeable to you as their gums and ears will appear yellow.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Toxoplasmosis can be diagnosed with a physical examination and blood tests. If blood tests indicate your cat has low levels of protein, raised inflammatory markers and low white blood cells, and they are displaying the symptoms mentioned above, toxoplasmosis is likely the cause. Further bloodwork may be arranged to check the health of your cat's liver if they look jaundiced.
As gastric upset can quickly lead to dehydration, the vet will also check for this by obtaining a sample of your cat's urine. If your vet is not entirely convinced toxoplasmosis is the cause of your cat's symptoms, they may test a sample of their lung fluid for the presence of parasites. This involves passing a long, thin needle through your cat's chest, which doesn't seem to bother most cats, and having the fluid sample analysed for the presence of the parasite toxoplasma gondii.
Treatment for toxoplasmosis involves combating dehydration with intravenous fluids and tackling the parasitic infection with antibiotics. Your cat will stay at the vet clinic during treatment and will be kept isolated from other animals at the practice. The success of treatment is dependent on how soon after infection the antibiotics are administered. Your vet will also give you instructions for cleaning your home and handling your cat's litter tray to prevent further infection.
If your cat is displaying symptoms associated with toxoplasmosis, have them examined by your vet immediately.