What Toxoplasmosis is in Dogs and How to Treat It

Toxoplasmosis is a serious disease that is commonly known to affect felines but it is a potentially harmful infection that can also affect dogs. This condition is an infection that is caused by Toxoplasma gondii which is a parasite. This affliction can be fatal if it is left untreated and it’s something that dog owners need to be aware of. It’s good to know the causes, the symptoms and what to do if your dog contracts toxoplasmosis.

The causes of toxoplasmosis in dogs

The parasite that causes the toxoplasmosis infection is most often passed to dogs through unwashed fruits and vegetables, and unwashed meats. It can also be passed along from one kind of animal to another through the feces. Not all dogs show outward signs of having toxoplasmosis, but some experience a range of symptoms. These can vary in intensity and type such as problems with vision, the nervous system or the respiratory system. Dogs with poor immune systems are the most likely to present with symptoms. This is an infection that can even occur from your dog rooting around in soil that has been infected with the parasites.

Symptoms to look for in dogs

Toxoplasmosis can be difficult to diagnose in dogs. Those who are infected may not show any symptoms at all, but others may present with a variety of different symptoms with just a few or all of them. Neurological problems can occur which include tremors, weakness, paralysis, either partial or total, head tilting, loss of muscle control and poor coordination. Other possible symptoms include depression, lethargy, loss of appetite or weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal swelling and/or pain, jaundice, inflamed eyes, heart arrhythmia, rapid blinking and sensitivity to light, shortness of breath, coughing, pneumonia, and fever.

What to do if you suspect that your dog may have toxoplasmosis

It’s nearly impossible to diagnose this condition at home. Any of the symptoms mentioned could indicate that your dog is seriously ill and should see a vet as soon as possible. The vet will examine your pet and test him for this and other possible medical conditions to arrive at the correct diagnosis.

How toxoplasmosis is diagnosed

At the appointment with a vet, be prepared to give the pet doctor a detailed health history for your pet. Relay when the symptoms first started, which symptoms your dog displayed and anything that happened with your pet around the time that this started to occur. If there was a chance that your dog came into contact with cat feces or if there are stray cats in the neighborhood. This could be the source of the infection. After the physical examination, the vet will run some lab tests including a blood test with a biochemistry profile and complete blood count, and a urinalysis. It is through these types of tests that an accurate diagnosis can be made, or it can also rule out the infection. Some results that vets look for are low counts of white blood cells, lymphocytes, and neutrophils in the blood count. A high white blood cell count can happen when the dog is recovering from the infection because his body is fighting off the parasites. There is usually a high amount of bilirubin and proteins in the urine, as well as some other signs.

Levels of toxoplasmosis infection

Testing your dog can reveal if the infection is present and if so, what stage it is in. Some dogs may have an active infection while in others it is dormant. Testing can also sow whether it is long term or recent. There are several other tests that your vet may order but the kind of testing necessary depends upon the symptoms that your dog has presented. For example, testing of the spinal fluid may be needed if the dog has neurological symptoms. Even though your dog may be diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, it doesn’t necessarily mean that any treatment will be required. Much depends on how sick your pet becomes with the infection.

Treatment for toxoplasmosis in dogs

There have been many confirmed cases of toxoplasmosis in dogs that have not required treatment. In some of the more severe cases, antibiotics are prescribed to rid the body of the toxoplasmosis parasite. When symptoms are more severe, vets may elect to give intravenous injections or fluids by IV, particularly if dehydration has become an issue. In addition to this, some dogs experiencing seizures from a toxoplasmosis infection may be given anticonvulsant medications for control of the seizures. The treatment, if any, depends upon the symptoms and the overall health of the dog at the time of the diagnosis.

Can humans contract toxoplasmosis?

Humans are also susceptible to this parasite. Pregnant women are instructed to avoid handling cat feces because of the risk to the human fetus. Gloves should be worn when gardening in soil that has the potential for becoming infected with the parasite through house cats or by strays.

Final thoughts

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that poses a potential health risk to your dog, as well as to cats. If you suspect that your dog may be infected the best course of action is to take your pet to the vet immediately. The only way to diagnose this problem accurately is through medical testing. Make sure to go prepared with the facts surrounding the onset of symptoms to give your vet the full picture of when symptoms began, what they were and the circumstances your pet was involved in at the time of onset. While some dogs contract the infection and never show symptoms some may experience catastrophic illness as a result and even death. Measures to prevent this kind of infection is to keep your dog away from areas that may have contamination in the soil and avoid feeding your pet raw meats. While this infection has the potential to be lethal, in most cases, pets make a full recovery and some never show symptoms at all.

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