Veterinary neurologist allays fears about cat toxoplasmosis infections for those considering cat adoption during June, which is Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month. Pregnancy and cats need not be mutually exclusive with easy solution to eliminate possibility of infection.
Sarasota, Fla. (PRWEB) - Prospective pet owners who are looking to adopt a cat during Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat-Month in June should not let concerns about cats and pregnancy stop them.
Most pet owners have heard that pregnant women should not change cat litter because of a parasitic disease called toxoplasmosis, but many do not know how easy it is to eliminate the possibility of infection, said Dr. Anne Chauvet, a veterinary neurologist who founded Veterinary Neuro Services. Simply cleaning the litter box every day virtually eliminates the chance that anyone in the household, including other cats, could become infected, said Chauvet, who has dealt with toxoplasmosis infections in her veterinary neurology practice when the parasite attacks the brain, spinal cord or muscles.
A toxoplasmosis infection is caused by toxoplasma gondii, a microscopic parasite that is transformed into its infective form (sporozoites) in the feces of cats. The parasite sheds microscopic eggs (oocysts) in a cat's feces, and the eggs become infective after two to five days. "That is why it is important to clean the litter daily, before the eggs have a chance to become infective," Chauvet said. "Of course, prospective mothers and those who are pregnant should leave the litter cleaning duties to others during their pregnancies to take no chances."
A patient also can be infected by eating improperly cooked vegetables or if a dog should eat grass infected by outdoor cats. The same goes for humans. If a cow becomes infected from eating contaminated grass, and humans eat beef from that cow, then they can become infected, she said. Cats, however, are the final host because they are the only host that can shed the egg form of the parasite.
Once a cat is infected, the chances for recovery are fair to guarded and recurrence is common. Eating raw or undercooked meat can also cause exposure to the parasite for humans, cats, dogs and other animals. Once ingested, the parasite can morph into one of two forms, an acute form (tachyzoites) or a latent form (bradyzoites.)
The acute form divides rapidly and destroys its host cells until stopped by the immune system. For those with healthy immune systems, symptoms generally are flu-like. In children or those with a weakened immune system, it can invade just about any organ or tissue and can cause just about any clinical sign, such as respiratory infection, muscle or bowel disease and more depending upon where the infection lodges in the body. It also can be fatal if not treated, particularly in those with compromised immune systems, she said.
All of this makes toxoplasmosis difficult to diagnose, Chauvet said. Adding to the difficulty, it may take weeks, or months, before test results show positive for the parasite.
The latent form of the toxoplasma gondii parasite divides more slowly, but is more persistent and can stay in the body for years. Research suggests that about 40 percent of cats are positive for the parasite as are about one-third of humans, she said. Not all cats or humans who test positive will develop symptoms.
The polymerase chain reaction test, a type of DNA testing, is the most accurate diagnostic test, particularly when the eyes are affected, Chauvet said. Treatment depends on the part of the body that is affected. In cats, trimethoprim-sulfonamide drugs may be prescribed, but they must be used carefully and for a limited time because they can cause bone marrow suppression resulting in a compromised immune system, she said. Clindamycin and Pyrimethamine are other effective and commonly used drugs, but the later should be supplemented with folic acid as it can cause a deficiency she added.
About Veterinary Neuro Services:
Dr. Anne Chauvet, one of about 150 veterinary neurologists and neurosurgeons in North America, is the founder of Veterinary Neuro Services in Sarasota, Fla. Veterinary Neuro Services treats brain, spinal cord and neuromuscular conditions in animals and is the only strictly neurology and neurosurgery practice on Florida's Gulf Coast. More information is available by calling 941-929-1818 or online at PetNeuro.com.
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