Family Health Diary

Our dog has had toxoplasmosis. Altogether a bit scary. I last heard the word ‘toxoplasmosis’ some 21 years ago, when pregnant with my first baby, so it’s been a good while between awareness bouts for me – you could say from first baby to fur baby!

What is it?

  1. gondii is an intestinal parasite of cats, but from there, it can go on to infect other species. Cats get infected by eating infected rodents, birds, or other small animals, and then shed the infectious material in their poos for the next 1 to 3 weeks.

Many humans and animals might have been exposed to this ‘toxoplasmosis bug’ over time and not been bothered by it due to our immune system doing its thing as it should (as it does with many other bugs out there), but there are some folk for whom exposure to it can be serious stuff. Pregnant women and those with impaired immunity need to be careful (and cats and dogs too…but more on the furry family members in a mo), so this advice below is for them.

How do you get it?
Given this is technical stuff one does not want to get wrong, I’ve abridged this from here:

  • Foodborne – ingestion of the parasitic cysts in undercooked, contaminated meat (especially pork, lamb, and venison) or poor kitchen hygiene when handling raw contaminated meat.
  • Zoonotic (animal-human) transmission – accidental ingestion of oocysts in cat faeces e.g. after cleaning a cat’s litter box, after gardening, or eating unwashed garden fruit or vegetables.
  • Congenital (mother-child) transmission – a pregnant woman who acquires a new infection can pass the infection to her unborn child.
  • Organ donation or blood transfusion – rarely transmitted.

How do you prevent it?

  • Avoid eating undercooked meat and eggs, and unpasteurised milk.
  • Wash your hands after touching raw meat and practice good kitchen hygiene.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables and your hands after gardening or handling soil.
  • Avoid contact with cat faeces.

We didn’t have a cat back when I first became familiar with these messages, so no litter boxes to clean out, but I loved gardening, so wore gloves in case some random cat had chosen my pretty garden to further ‘decorate’. The food prep messaging was all good info anyway that anyone learning how to cook should be drilled on, as well as washing fruit and veg.

Plus when the kids were little, I loved them playing in the dirt or the sandpit at home, as all good fun, but kept the sand pit covered when not in use and they always washed their hands after outside play. Toxoplasmosis prevention aside, it’s sound advice anyway.

So… to the furry members of the household. Our wee princess of a cat was recently bitten badly by a cat that appears to have moved in on her patch. He’s a grumpy, large ginger fella that sounds threatening when I hear him. Cue unhappy cat, vet bills, abscess drained, and unbecoming shaved back end. End of story I thought. I just shoo it away and remind our cat to take the moral high ground and not argue over the neighbour’s cat-less place and who owns it.

But no, I suspect the random feline has had the last laugh and affected both our dog’s health and our bank balance with a well-placed poo or three, where the dog could not help her curious self. She is a dog after all and I’ve seen her eat all sorts of random things, so investigating odd cat poos within her fenced kingdom highly likely. That’s my theory anyway.

So the last bit of advice here is for pet owners. If your dog does what ours did –difficulty controlling their back legs, closing their mouth so can’t eat or drink properly, or starting to stumble about the place – see a vet and have this option in the back of your head. It’ll show up on a blood test – and as a possibility in an MRI if you end up there like we did. GULP! For us, treatment with tablets for toxoplasmosis for 2 weeks (man they are expensive – shows you how much human meds are subsidised) was the best of the ugly and uglier outcomes. The other options in play were (the less hopeful) brain cancer and meningitis. Even so, our dog is not the same dog – she has some neurological damage that has stayed with her, but we’ve got about 95% of her back. Now if I see that blooming cat!!!!!!


Written by Jude Dobson

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