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Toxoplasmosis In Dogs

Toxoplasmosis is an infection that dogs can develop that’s caused by the T. gondii parasite. Any dog can develop this type infection and it is a condition that is most commonly seen bearing in mind that it can affect humans and other warm-blooded animals too. The parasites that causes toxoplasmosis use cats as their hosts and complete their cycle in a cat’s intestinal tract before being passed out into the environment in a cat's faeces. Dogs become infected and develop toxoplasmosis when they eat a cat’s faeces which they like to do.

The Causes

As previously mentioned a toxoplasmosis infection is caused by a parasite that uses cats as its host. However, the T. gondii parasite can also thrive in raw meat as well as vegetables and fruit more especially if it has not been thoroughly washed and is fed to dogs. There are in fact two types of toxoplasmosis which are as follows:

  • Chronic toxoplasmosis - a milder form of the infection
  • Acute Toxoplasmosis - a symptomatic form of the infection

Symptoms Associated with the Infection

Although this type of infection is more commonly seen in cats, dogs too can become infected and when they do there are obvious signs there is something wrong. The symptoms most commonly associated with toxoplasmosis include the following:

  • Neurological issues
  • Seizures
  • Tremours
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Muscle weakness
  • An uncoordinated gait
  • Paralysis whether partial or total
  • Difficulty breathing - a shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of tonsils, a condition known as tonsillitis
  • Inflammation of retina, a condition known as retinitis
  • Inflammation of middle part of the eye including iris which is a condition known as uveitis
  • Inflammation of the cornea which is a condition known as keratitis
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Jaundice

When dogs are infected with toxoplasmosis, the symptoms often mimic those of other health issues which can make diagnosing the problem more challenging. Younger dogs, in particular, are more at risk because their immune systems are not fully developed. Dogs with compromised immune systems are also more predisposed to developing toxoplasmosis too.


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Diagnosing the Problem

The vet would ideally need to have a dog's full medical history and know how the onset of any symptoms first presented themselves. The more information a vet has the easier it is for them to make a preliminary diagnosis. The vet would thoroughly examine a dog suspected of suffering from toxoplasmosis to assess their overall health. The sort of tests the vet would typically recommend carrying out which help confirm their diagnosis could include the following:

  • A complete blood count
  • A full biochemistry profile
  • A urinalysis
  • Serological tests which would establish if a dog has toxoplasma antigens in their systems
  • A cerebrospinal fluid biopsy which would help establish if the infection has negatively impacted a dog's central nervous system

When dogs are suffering from toxoplasmosis, they usually have a very low white blood cell count as well as low levels of neutrophils and lymphocytes.

Treatment Options

Should a dog be suffering from a severe infection, they would need to be hospitalised so they can be given supportive care which would include fluid therapy to rehydrate them. However, most dogs can be treated as outpatients and a vet would typically prescribe a course of antibiotics and it's important that the complete course is given to a dog for the treatment to be effective.

Prevention

The best way to prevent a dog from being infected by the T. gondii parasite is to keep things as clean as possible and to avoid feeding them any raw food and unwashed vegetables. Should a cat share the same environment as a dog, it's important to prevent the dog from having access to their faeces which they like to eat and which puts them more at risk of developing toxoplasmosis.


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