Parasites in pets and owners can be prevented |

Parasites in pets and owners can be prevented

Nadine Lober

As mentioned in the last article, toxoplasma gondii is the parasite that can affect pregnant women significantly. I will discuss this parasite, the animals it affects, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and the prevention.Toxoplasma gondii is coccidian that infects nearly all mammals. Cats, who can carry the living, growing parasite, are the definitive hosts. Other warm-blooded animals – humans included – are the intermediate host, which means they can carry this parasite at some time in its life cycle.Infection with toxoplasma occurs by ingesting the cyst, a hard shell stage in the life cycle of toxoplasm. Once ingested, the cyst passes through the stomach to the intestines and can then travel to other organs outside of the intestines via the blood system. This can damage organs. These cysts, once ingested, can also remain in certain tissues for longer periods of time and cause low-grade disease or no disease, unless the pet’s immune system has been weakened.Symptoms range from lethargy, depression, anorexia, fever, eye discharge, respiratory distress, tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and still born kittens.Pregnant cats can transmit the parasite via the placenta and the kittens may be stillborn or die before weaning. The surviving kittens are usually sick and weak and unresponsive to antibiotics. Respiratory and gastrointestinal systems are most commonly affected in cats while neurological signs are seen in less than 10 percent of infected cats. Eyes, however, are commonly affected.Young dogs usually get a generalized infection and suffer fever, weight loss, anorexia, diarrhea and vomiting. Older dogs tend to get localized infections, mostly associated with neurological and muscular systems. Eyes are rarely affected.Diagnosis is most definitive with a a blood test that detects antibodies in the blood. The test is then repeated in a few weeks.Treatment is based on symptoms and antibiotics are prescribed for at least 2 weeks after clinical signs clear up. Prevention is the key to avoidance. Owners should have cats avoid ingestion of raw meat, bones or viscera and unpasteurized milk. Humans can avoid ingesting the organism by practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands after handling raw meat, keeping sand boxes covered to prevent cats from defecating in them, wearing gloves when gardening, washing veggies thoroughly and emptying litter boxes daily. The cysts need at least 24 hours to cause infection. Pregnant women should avoid all contact with a cat that is shedding these cysts in his feces and cook all raw meat to 150 degrees. Dr. Nadine Lober at Vail Valley Vet 949-7972 Free dog and cat examsIf your pet needs a check up but you have been unable to afford it, Dr. Nadine Lober is offering free exams from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday. There are a limited number of appointments so call (970) 949-7972.vail colorado

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