Toxoplasmosis is a medical condition that cat owners may experience in their pets more than dog owners. However, this isn’t to say that dogs don’t get affected too.
Thankfully, some measures can be taken to not only prevent toxoplasmosis in dogs but also to treat it.
What is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis can be referred to as the disease process that is caused by a protozoal parasite known as T. gondii. Studies have found that any warm-blooded animal, including cats, dogs, and humans, can be affected by this parasite.
Even though T. gondii can easily infect dogs, they are not the ultimate host of the parasite.
A T. gondii can’t complete its life cycle when it infects a dog, but it can cause widespread infection in them as it spreads around the dog’s body. Dogs typically get infected when it eats another infected animal or stool from a cat that has the parasite.
As soon as the parasite gets into the dog’s gastrointestinal tract, it starts to reproduce by cloning itself before spreading to other parts of the dog’s body.
The duplicated clones commonly cluster together to form cysts in various organs and tissues in the dog’s body. Luckily, a dog that’s infected can’t spread the parasite through their fecal matter.
Symptoms of toxoplasmosis in dogs
Because the parasite can develop and encyst itself anywhere around the body, symptoms of infection can be different and depend entirely on what area the parasite ends up.
Signs of Toxoplasmosis in dogs
Depending on what area in your pet dog the cysts are formed, you may notice any of the following in any combination:
- Abdominal pain
- Cough/difficulty breathing
- Seizures/tremors/uncoordinated gait/other neurological disorders
- Partial or complete paralysis
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Eye infections and inflammation
- Muscle weakness
Can humans get toxoplasmosis from dogs?
Toxoplasmosis is zoonotic, meaning it’s a disease that can easily be transferred from animals to humans. Nevertheless, since dogs are not regarded are definitive hosts, and they do not shed any parasite, it’s safe to say that dog owners can’t get infected.
People who get often infected contract toxoplasmosis from eating contaminated undercooked or raw meat, or from not cleaning up after gardening.
Unlike dogs, cats can shed the parasite when they stool, so it’s essential that people do their best to properly clean out cats litter boxes to avoid contracting the parasite.
It’s difficult to diagnose toxoplasmosis in dogs from the symptoms alone. This can be attributed to the fact that the gastrointestinal signs from a severe infection are general symptoms that could manifest as signs of a wide range of illnesses.
A precise diagnosis is agreed based on an extensive range of lab work, which could include blood work, urinalysis, spinal taps, and serological tests (used in checking the level of toxoplasma antigens).
Bloodwork can be used to determine abnormally reduced levels of white blood cells, unusually elevated levels of the liver enzymes ALT or AST, and in other cases, abnormally decreased levels of albumin.
A urinalysis may be used to check for signs of unusually high levels of proteins, including the level of bilirubin in your dog. Serological testing can also be done to determine if an infection is acute or severe and whether an infection is dormant or active.
Treatment of toxoplasmosis in dogs
Although toxoplasmosis infection can lead to clinical disease, most dogs have a healthy enough immune system that can stop the cysts from causing any harm. In these cases, treatment is likely unnecessary.
However, if your pup starts to exhibit symptoms, then you consult with your vet immediately. Your veterinarian will have to prescribe a set of antibiotics that you have to give your dog.
Anticonvulsants may also be required if your dog starts to suffer from seizures. Your veterinarian may have to hospitalize your dog if it becomes debilitated from the parasite. Intravenous medication and IV fluid therapy may be the best option.
Preventing toxoplasmosis in dogs
T. gondii can be transmitted through undercooked or uncooked meat that dogs eat, mainly if they have limited or no access to cats and cat litter boxes. It’s best to prevent your pet from scavenging or hunting wild animals if possible.
If you’re are an owner who prefers to feed your pet a raw diet, then you can try the commercial alternative that provides a variety of freeze-drying brands that undergo a specialized process known as high-pressure pasteurization. This process kills all potential pathogens in the foods without cooking it.
If your dog’s diet includes vegetables or fresh fruits, then you should wash them properly before feeding. Most pet owners have cats and dogs in their homes, so it’s best always to ensure that your dog doesn’t have access to your cat’s litter box. Although the cat stool that contains the T. gondii parasite isn’t instantly infectious.
This is because it goes through the process of sporulation, which lasts for several days before the eggs can cause infections. Nonetheless, your cat litter box must be cleaned regularly to protect your pet dog from eating infectious stool.
Toxoplasmosis is considered a disease process that is commonly associated with cats, but it is a disease that can also affect dogs.
Owners can keep their dogs safe with practical preventive steps and treatment. You can discuss with your vet about possible risk factors that may affect your dog and ways you can minimize them.
Have you ever had to treat your dog of toxoplasmosis before? If yes, what steps did you follow to achieve a healthy result? Kindly share with us by leaving a comment in the box below. We would also appreciate a feedback from you.