Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a parasite that most commonly affects cats and occasionally dogs. The organism often causes problems within the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, brain and eye and may cause fever, weight loss and lethargy. The infection is associated with proliferation of the organism in tissues causing significant inflammatory reactions.
Why is this disease so important in our feline friends? Not only does it cause sickness in cats, but more importantly it may cause neurologic disease, birth defects, stillbirth and ocular disease in people!
Public Health Concerns
How does this disease affect you?
- Don't worry, not all cats are considered infected, especially if they are kept indoors and proper preventative methods are followed.
- Toxoplasmosis most commonly affects immunocompromised people.
- Developing Fetus
The best way to prevent you and your cat from this deadly disease is to prevent exposure.
- Avoid feeding raw meat or uncooked diets.
- Keep cats indoors to discourage hunting.
- Clean litter boxes daily. The oocysts (eggs) require 24hr before they are considered infective. Wear gloves when cleaning litter boxes.
- Consider having new cats tested before they are introduced to your home.
- Wear gloves when gardening or working with soil as the infectious oocysts can live in the environment for several months to years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following to prevent humans from contracting toxoplasmosis:
Wash hands with soap and water after exposure to soil, sand, raw meat or unwashed vegetables.
Cook meat completely to safe temperatures.
Wash cutting boards with hot soapy water after use.
Wash or peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
- Pregnant women should avoid changing litter boxes.
- Wear gloves when handling soil or sand.
- "Toxoplasma Gondii." CAPC, Companion Animal Parasite Council. https://www.capcvet.org/guidelines/toxoplasma-gondii/
- "Preventing Congenital Toxoplasmosis." CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr4902a5.htm
- Photo by Meletios Verras/iStock / Getty Images