Cats to blame for spread of potentially deadly parasite

November 15th, 2021 at 10:23 am EDT

Hello Friend,


A cheery Monday to you.

Another disease...and now spread by cats?

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Here is the study.. but please read my comments at the end

Outdoor cats likely to blame for spread of potentially deadly parasite: UBC study

Toxoplasma parasite can trigger illness and potentially death in immuno-compromised people

A new University of British Columbia study has found that free-roaming cats — both domestic and feral — are likely to blame for the spread of a potentially deadly parasite in densely populated urban areas. 

The research found that Toxoplasma gondii — a common parasite that infects most warm-blooded animals, including humans, and causes the disease toxoplasmosis — is more likely to infect wildlife where human density is higher. 

"As human density goes up, the population of cats is going to go up as well. And as the population of cats goes up, we expect the number of free-roaming cats to increase as well," said study lead Dr. Amy Wilson, an adjunct professor at UBC's Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences. 

The study analyzed over 45,000 cases of toxoplasmosis in wild animals, using data from more than 200 global studies.

According to their findings, Wilson said domestic cats are "the most consequential host for toxoplasma," since infected cats can excrete the parasite's eggs in their feces. 

"At the core of the toxoplasma life cycle are our cats — domestic cats and wild cats. They're the only ones that can secrete oocysts [eggs] into the environment," Wilson said.

"They're pushing infection rates within natural populations beyond what they normally are exposed to."

Toxoplasmosis, also known as kitty litter disease, can cause blindness and miscarriages in humans and can be fatal for those with weakened immune systems. The disease has also been linked to nervous system disorders, cancers and other debilitating chronic conditions.

In healthy animals and humans, the parasite can remain dormant and rarely causes direct harm. 

Reduce outdoor access to curb spread

Wilson said responsible pet management could alleviate the spread of the parasite and, in turn, the risk to wildlife and humans. 

"Outdoor cat owners need to understand what they're exposing their neighbours to," she said.

"I'm not in any way saying that cats are a risk factor. This is talking about reducing the risk and that's reducing outdoor access and preventing the hunting. That's what's causing this, the free roaming [and] defecating off property."

The study said one infected cat can excrete as many as 500 million toxoplasma eggs in just two weeks. 

The eggs can then live for years in soil and water, with the potential to infect any bird or mammal, including humans, said David Lapen, a research scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 

"There's contamination of soil and water. And [the parasite] moves around and gets ingested and fecal matter gets ingested or [infected] animals get ingested," he said. 

"Getting exposed may not be as difficult as we might think."

Dr Jones Comments..

Here is what I know about Toxoplasmosis.. (Source: Cornell Feline Health Center)

How Does Toxoplasmosis Spread in Cats?

Cats usually get toxoplasmosis from eating wild animals or undercooked meat infected with the parasite.

Toxoplasma gondii also lives inside infected cats’ feces, where it can infect other cats or animals that swallow it.

Cats can’t contract the disease via bodily contact with humans or other animals — they must swallow material containing the parasite.

Although cats are a necessary part of the life cycle of T. gondii, the parasite rarely causes clinical disease in them.

T. gondii seldom causes significant symptoms in healthy people.

Do cats spread Toxoplasmosis to people often?

In the U.S., people are much more likely to become infected by eating raw meat and unwashed fruits and vegetables than by handling cat feces. The possibility of infection after gardening in soil that has been contaminated with cat feces also exists, and this possibility can be mitigated by wearing gloves and by washing hands after gardening.

Heal Your Pet At Home!

Best Wishes,

Dr Andrew

P.S. Should you be keeping your cats inside?

Yes... safer for your cat, and they are not outside killing wildlife ( ie birds)

But is your cat about to get you sick with Toxo?

Nope...WAY more likely to get it from eating undercooked meat/fruits/vegetables...

P.P.S. About those winter blues..

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DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. Dr Andrew Jones resigned from the College of Veterinarians of B.C. effective December 1 2010, meaning he cannot answer specific questions about your pet's medical issues or make specific medical recommendations for your pet.

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