Toxocariasis in cats is a disease generated by worms. In this article we will see how to manage, cure and prevent it, to help our furry dog.
Toxocara cati is considered an integrated parasite in the order Ascaridida and Ascarididae of the family (Toxocaridae for other authors). Toxocara cati is a nematode, that is, an organism that resembles a round worm, which has a vestibular system, a digestive system and a ventral and rather complex anal opening.
It has a thin and unsegmented body, in the front it has cervical wings that resemble the tip of an arrow. It mainly affects kittens.
Cause and contagion of toxocariasis in cats
Toxocariasis is a zoonosis caused by the presence of nematodes. These are some worms, specifically from the nematode larvae Toxocara canis or Toxocara cati, parasites of the intestine of dogs and cats that accidentally infest humans causing a disease known as migrating visceral larva (in humans) or toxocariasis.
When ingested by humans, the eggs of these worms can hatch giving life to larval forms which, however, are not able to follow the normal development cycle, but being parasites of very small size, they are nevertheless able to penetrate the intestinal wall of humans, reach the circulatory stream and from there move towards various tissues.
Almost any tissue in the body can be involved, but the liver and lungs are most affected by the infection. Children are more at risk of infection from the point of view of the likelihood of putting their hands over their mouths after playing in an outdoor environment. The contagion of the disease is then carried out via the fecal-oral route after the cat’s feces are leaked.
Symptoms of toxocariosis in cats
The symptoms of toxocariasis can reveal themselves a few weeks after having ingested the eggs, but generally the cat is asymptomatic and manifested as the only symptom, the alteration of white blood cells. In the most severe cases, symptoms related to the movement of the larvae through the tissues, where they are able to cause, may appear the following symptoms:
- formation of inflammatory nodules of fibrous tissue (granulomas),
- tissue death (necrosis).
In this condition, the organs most frequently affected are: lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, muscles, eyes, central nervous system.
Diagnosis and treatment of toxocariasis in cats
A direct diagnostic method, but also more invasive, turns out to be a sampling of a tissue sample (biopsy) which is subsequently examined to identify the larvae or the resulting inflammation (usually liver or other infected tissue), also the examination of infested pet feces can be supportive of diagnosis.
While the examination of feces is instead useless in humans, as adult worms that deposit eggs cannot be found . After the diagnosis, made through these analyzes of the fecal material, mentioned above, the veterinarian will establish the appropriate treatment, which are generally divided into antiparasitic drugs, which are usually also prescribed as disease prevention.
Absolute prevention concerns the deworming of puppies: it is advisable to practice it from the age of 2 weeks, then to 4, 6 and 8 weeks, then every month until the age of 6 months. For this it will be useful to contact the veterinarian, who will be able to prescribe the appropriate product for your pet, taking into account the age of the cat, its lifestyle, the ease of administration of the products, their effectiveness, the absence of side effects.
In order to limit the contamination of the environment, experts recommend:
- collect cat droppings, both in the city and in the garden;
- do not let the cat or cats access the vegetable garden, the beaches, the play areas;
- if you have a cat litter box, put a lid on it when the kids are not there.
To limit human contamination:
- wash your hands regularly, especially after handling animals or the floor;
- wash the vegetables thoroughly, especially if they must be eaten raw;
- cook the meat completely.