Health, advice, and information online community for dog and cat lovers.

Are our cats plotting against us?

Dear Listeners, Reader, and Viewers,

I am very excited about this episode, as I will be returning to my live format, BUT, in addition to addressing you live and taking live calls again, we are adding live video streaming to the mix.

As many of you are aware, I have another YouTube based show called The Web-DVM that was embedded here in addition to my podcast, where I posted scripted video news stories every other week. As many of you also have correctly observed, I have not done many of those as of late.

The truth is, I really did not enjoy that venue very much…I do not really like reading off of a teleprompter, I am not very good at it, and as many who know me well have observed, nothing of my real personality comes through that style of media. As a close friend of many years simply and bluntly put it, that show made me come off looking like I was constipated. 🙂

At any rate, while I have a great podcast following, I also have a very substantial video following that I must recognize. Some prefer to listen, while others are more visually stimulated, preferring to see the speaker’s body language and expressions to put the words in a better context for them. With the live streaming, I intend to reach both my podcast fans AND video fans all in one shot, with one broadcast.

For those that prefer to listen or watch by archive (and there are many of you) since you can catch the show at your convenience, that will not change…both video and podcast episodes will still be archived within one hour of wrap for your convenience. While this blog is the easiest place to catch either or, you may also catch the archived video webcasts and podcasts at BlogTalkRadio.com/RWDVM, and BlogTV.com/People/RWDVM, respectively.

Regarding the topic of this upcoming show, I leave that to your imagination given the cryptic title, so tune in to find out!

As always, thank you for always caring about what I have to say. 🙂

Sincerely,

Roger Welton, DVM

Episode Talking Points:

1) Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite the can infect almost all mammals and birds. Experts in zoonotic diseases estimate that about 50% of humans worldwide have this parasite.

2) The parasite is considered to be a significant concern because of its zoonotic potential. A recent study that links the presence of toxoplasma to a greater suicide risk in women has alarmed many people.

3) T. gondii has a life cycle that involves two hosts. First, wild and domestic cats are the definitive host, meaning that the parasite reproduces and is shed into the environment only through felines.

4) Cats originally become infected after eating a prey animal already infected with toxoplasma. An interesting note is that the majority of cats will only shed the oocysts (eggs) of the parasite into the environment for a short (8-21 day) period of time.

5) However, cats that are under-nourished, infected with other parasites or under stress can reshed these oocysts at later times. This makes the feral cat population a concern for the spread of this parasite.

6) Other mammals and birds can become infected from ingesting the infective oocysts. The parasite then travel via blood and lymph vessels to other tissues, such as the brain and large muscles. Here, the parasite becomes a cyst and can cause significant health problems for immune-compromised people or pregnant women.

7) Once shed into the environment, the oocysts require about 24 hours to become infective. This is important because daily cleaning of a cat’s litter box along with routine hand washing can greatly reduce any risk of contracting the parasite.

8) Although our domestic cats are often implicated in the transmission of toxoplasma, people can also become infected through eating inadequately washed raw fruits or vegetables, eating raw or undercooked meats and shellfish or even through contamination while working in the garden.

9) The study about female suicide risk did not appear to address how the women may have been infected with toxoplasma, only that antibodies to toxoplasma were present.

10) It should also be noted that many people have antibodies to toxo but don’t have any sort of active disease or suicidal tendencies.

11) The important thing to remember is that although this is a very concerning disease, there are a few simple steps that cat owners can take to minimize the risk.

12) First, keeping cats indoors will greatly decrease the potential for infection. Since cats generally obtain the parasite through their carnivorous activities, indoor cats that don’t hunt are at lower risk.

13) Next, as mentioned above, clean the litter box at least once daily. The oocyst of the parasite requires 24 hours to become infective so a daily scooping of the litter will decrease your risk AND also make your cat happier with a cleaner box!

14) Finally, follow good hygiene practices…wash your hands after handling your cat and/or the litter box and relegate the cleaning duties to someone who is generally healthy. Immuno-compromised individuals (young children, the elderly, pregnant women, etc) will be at higher risk for contracting toxoplasma and develop more severe symptoms.

15) It is NOT necessary to get rid of your cat based on this one study. Ask your veterinarian for more details about toxo and steps you can take to help prevent the disease. He or she is well-trained in understanding zoonotic diseases and will help you understand the risks.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website Web-DVM.net.

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