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Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a one-celled organism called toxoplasma. Cats ingest immature toxoplasma through:
Once ingested, the toxoplasma multiply and mature in the cat's intestine. They spread throughout the body and cause infection. However, a healthy immune system can usually prevent infection. Once the toxoplasmas mature, they enter a dormant stage. They usually remain dormant for life, but can spread to other hosts, including humans.
Toxoplasma is passed in the cat's stool. They can survive and mature on the ground, becoming infectious to other animals and humans.
It is common for a cat to be infected with toxoplasma, but it's rare for a cat to contract an infection.
Humans can get the infection from animals, and pregnant women can pass the disease to their fetus. An infected person will display mild cold-like symptoms. If the person has a weak immune system, it can be fatal.
Humans can contract the toxoplasma organism in a few ways:
Having a cat is not the most common way to get infected. More common is eating or drinking contaminated foods. Therefore, there is no need to give up a cat out of fear of toxoplasmosis.
About one-third of human infants born to mothers who have acquired toxoplasma during that pregnancy are infected. This can lead to stillbirths, eye problems, brain problems, deafness, respiratory disease and liver disease.
Cats that are host to the toxoplasma organism will usually not display any symptoms. If the cat is actually infected, some symptoms may include:
Diagnosis of toxoplasmosis is challenging, because the symptoms are general and found with many other diseases. Your vet may perform:
Your veterinarian will prescribe anti-protozoal drugs. It is important to administer the medication for as long as your vet prescribes, even if the symptoms go away.
The prognosis for kittens is guarded. There is a better chance for recovery with adults, except if it has a weak immune system.
With quick and aggressive treatment, the prognosis is much better in all cases. If internal organs have already been damaged, there may be lasting effects for life.
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