Testing Cats for Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that affects cats and humans. The parasite enters a cat through infected raw meat, unwashed vegetation, from their mother during birth, drinking contaminated water or contact with another infected animals feces. Once in a cat, the parasite rarely causes any harm unless the cat's immune system is not functioning properly.

It's rare for a human to contract toxoplasmosis from their cat. The odds are higher that the parasite enters a mammal's bloodstream through raw or undercooked meats or unwashed fruits and vegetables. Feeding a cat a raw food diet will increase a cat's risk. Provide your pet with fresh, filtered water.

Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis

Typically, a cat or human with toxoplasmosis develops flu-like symptoms including body aches, fever, lack of appetite, lack of energy and swollen lymph nodes, usually the symptoms are present for at least three weeks. If a cat has an underlying illness affecting the immune system, problems may occur.

Severe cases of the parasitic disease involve problems with the central nervous system, pneumonia and vision impairment, including:

  • Blindness

  • Red eyes

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Uneven or abnormal pupils

Dangers to Pregnant Women

Pregnant women should avoid changing their cat's litter during the entire pregnancy. It's also important to thoroughly cook all meats, avoid sushi and wash all vegetables and fruit. If you do take care of your cat's litter box, it is advised that you wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water.

Studies find that fetuses infected during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing vision problems, mental impairment and hearing loss at some point in their life.

Should You Have Your Cat Tested

The parasites do not always cause symptoms, especially in healthy cats. If your cat is showing any of the troublesome symptoms, you should talk to your vet about testing. These symptoms include:

  • Difficultly walking or balancing

  • Difficulty swallowing food

  • Excessive ear twitching

  • Extreme sensitivity to light

  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

  • Personality changes

  • Respiratory distress

  • Seizures

  • Vision changes

How Toxoplasmosis Is Diagnosed

Veterinarians check for toxplasma gondi parasites by checking a blood sample for two antibodies to the Toxoplasma gondi parasites. If IgG antibodies are found, it denotes that the cat has been affected by the parasites at some point in his life and now carries immunities. The discovery of IgM antibodies proves the cat has a current infection and is currently shedding egg casings.

Preventing Toxoplasmosis

Protect your cat and yourself by following the preceding tips:

  • Do not allow your cat to hunt wildlife

  • Keep your cat inside

  • Keep your cat out of a child's sandbox and garden areas

  • Never eat or drink unpasteurized dairy products

  • Never eat raw meat and do not feed raw meat to your cat

  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating

  • Wash your hands after cleaning a litter box, handling raw meat or gardening

  • Wear disposable gloves when cleaning a cat box

Medications Used for Severe Cases

If a cat has a severe case of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, an antibiotic may be prescribed. There are three current options that veterinarians use:

  • Clindamycin

  • Pyrimethamine

  • Sulfadiazine

Antibiotics are given for a number of days and then the blood is tested again. If improvements are not seen after the first three days, additional testing is often ordered.