Toxoplasmosis

My family and I got some surprising news about our cat Domino this week.  You may remember I wrote a few weeks ago that she was sick with pneumonia.  The vet treated her with rounds of two different antibiotics and the pneumonia just wasn’t clearing up.

We were wondering if she might have a lung tumor causing the pneumonia not to get better as expected.  Then Dr. Kontur said “Let me do one more test.”

Turns out, the test came back “screaming” positive!

Domino has toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis is an intestinal infection with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that is found in some animals including cats.  Dr. Kontur tells me it usually affects young cats and older cats with asthma (like Domino) and can cause pneumonia.  Treating the infection requires antibiotics and hopefully it will clear up easily.

So why am I writing about toxoplasmosis today?  Because Toxoplasma can infect humans too.  Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted from animal feces, soil or sand contaminated with animal feces, and by eating raw or undercooked meat or seafood.

Most people who get toxoplasmosis from their cats or any other source have no symptoms at all.  In addition, those who do get sick generally just get flulike symptoms (headache, fever, body aches and fatigue).  Healthy people are at little or no risk of long-term harm from toxoplasmosis.

Who IS at risk?  Pregnant women and those whose immune systems are not normal are most at risk.  People with HIV infection, inherited immune deficiencies, or receiving chemotherapy for organ transplant, cancer or autoimmune diseases are at risk.

Pregnancy is definitely not much of a concern for me, my childbearing days are done.  However, I do have a cancer patient in my house.  As many of you know, my husband was diagnosed over 6 years ago with multiple myeloma.  As a result, we are very conscious of infection risk where he is concerned.

If you or someone you know is at risk for toxoplasmosis, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  • Clean out your cat’s litter box every day.  It takes 1-5 days for Toxoplasma organisms to become contagious after passing in the cat’s stool.
  • If possible, have someone who is NOT pregnant and is NOT immune compromised clean the litter box.
  • Fully cook meats and seafoods before eating them.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after gardening and after cleaning a cat litter box.
  • If your kids have an outdoor sandbox, keep it securely covered to keep feral cats and other animals out of it.

For healthy people toxoplasmosis is not generally a serious health problem.  However, it can cause pregnant women to miscarry their babies and can cause infection in the unborn baby.  In additon, people with immune suppression can develop breathing problems, neurologic problems like seizures, and can affect the eyes and vision as well.

We are so blessed that Dr. Kontur discovered Domino’s toxoplasmosis infection!  Here’s hoping her infection clears up quickly and easily (although she HATES being force-fed pills).  And clearing up Domino’s infection will help protect Russ from any possibility of infection in the future.

If you’re looking for a new vet for your four-legged family member, please give Dr. Kontur a call at Summit Animal Hospital in Northfield.  She rocks!

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