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Filed in Cats, Health, Safety

Toxoplasmosis is a highly infectious disease, sometimes carried by cats, which presents a problem for pregnant women because it can cause birth defects, spontaneous abortion, or still birth.

Toxoplasmosis is caused be a microscopic intestinal parasite. Cats get the disease by coming in contact with the feces of other cats that are infected or by eating infected raw meat, often rodents or birds. The parasite can then be transferred to humans if they come in contact with infected feces, most commonly when cleaning the litter box or working in a garden.

Most infected cats show either no symptoms at all or give a very mild indication that they don't feel well. A few cats, however, develop sudden severe signs, including fever, depression, weight loss, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, or lymph nodes that are swollen.

A veterinarian can diagnose toxoplasmosis in cats by examining the feces under a microscope to find eggs of the parasites. Blood tests can also show high levels of antibodies in the blood or other changes in the biochemical values of the internal organs involved.

Sulfa drugs and supportive care are used to treat toxoplasmosis in cats. If a cat shows signs of central nervous system involvement, such as blindness, convulsions, or lack of coordination, the chances of survival are poor, and the cat usually dies within 3 to 12 days. Less severely infected cats usually develop a strong immunity and recover with proper treatment.

To keep your cats from getting this disease, discourage them from hunting for birds and rodents, and feed them only commercially prepared cat food. Also, make sure your cat's litter box is kept very clean.

Pregnant women should never clean litter boxes. They should also wear gloves when gardening if cats have been around, and always wash their hands after handling cats.

Source: Ask the Vet, reprinted with permission by Pet Food Express. Ask the Vet is published by Veterinarian's Best, Inc.

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