Animal & Bird Medical Center of Palm Harbor
Medical Database

Infectious Disease


Animals Affected – Dog, Cat, Rodent

General Information
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a microscopic parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which lives in animal tissues. The cat is the primary host. Toxoplasma is widespread in nature and can infect birds and a variety of mammals, including people.

Cats contract toxoplasmosis by eating infected raw meat, infective Toxoplasma cysts in feces, or contaminated water. Infected cats may or may not show illness. Signs include diarrhea, fever, labored breathing, enlarged lymph nodes, eye inflammation, and occasionally death. Cats usually develop immunity to toxoplasmosis after the initial infection and never pass the organism again.

Other animals and people become infected by eating the incubated cysts or uncooked meat containing Toxoplasma cysts. Toxoplasma may invade and form cysts in such organs as the brain, heart, and skeletal muscle.

Public Health Significance

A woman who plans to have a child can be tested for antibodies to Toxoplasma before becoming pregnant. If she has antibodies, then she and her unborn child will not be infected. If she has no antibodies, she could transmit the organism to her unborn child if she became infected during pregnancy. You should discuss the blood test for Toxoplasma antibodies with your physician before becoming pregnant.

Cat Management in a Household with an Expectant Mother
1. Your cat’s blood should be tested for antibodies. Two tests, 2 to 3 weeks apart, are recommended. If infected, your cat can be treated for toxoplasmosis.
2. Your cat’s stool should be checked for parasite eggs or cysts. The expectant mother should not handle the stool sample.
3. Pregnant women should not clean the litter box. The litter box should be emptied daily.
4. Children’s sand boxes should be covered when not in use.
5. Cats should not be allowed to catch rodents or birds or to eat raw meat.
6. Do not allow stray cats into the household.
7. Wash your hands after petting or handling the cat.

Pregnancy does not mean that you cannot own a cat, but common sense should prevail. Eating raw or undercooked meat is probably a much more important source of human toxoplasmosis than contracting the disease from cats. Heating meat to at least 150° F kills Toxoplasma.

An Important Update From Animal & Bird Medical Center On COVID-19

We are committed to offering a safe and healthy environment for our clients, pets and hospital team here at Animal and Bird Medical Center. The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus. Taking typical preventive actions is key.

In being cautious and mindful of everyone’s safety, we are actively working to minimize your exposure to crowded exam rooms and long waits in the lobby.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made some changes to our protocols in-hospital for the time-being…

In order to limit exposure while still providing quality care for your pet, we will be implementing special protocols to keep you safe.

We will have our veterinary technicians get a history of the patient’s symptoms and owner’s concerns via phone prior to coming into the clinic.

Our goal is for you to be able to bring your pet in for medical care but have no risk for you or our dedicated staff of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

The Doctors and staff are dedicated to making sure your pet’s medical needs are taken care of during this national crisis.

We can still fill prescriptions for pick up, however, for those who prefer, non-narcotic and non-urgent prescriptions can be mailed to your home.

As always, careful hand-washing and other infection control practices can greatly reduce the chance of spreading any disease.