Toxocara cati (Proceedings)
Apr 01, 2010
CVC IN WASHINGTON, D.C. PROCEEDINGS
Despite the advent of highly effective, easily administered broad-spectrum parasite control products for cats, infection with intestinal parasites in general, and ascarids (roundworms) in particular, remains a common finding in cats. Toxocara cati is of particular concern because it not only induces disease in cats, but also poses a risk of infection to people. Wellness programs should include measures to actively seek to identify feline intestinal parasites through routine fecal examination performed under best practice guidelines, as well as proactively manage both cats to limit infections with ascarids and other common intestinal parasites. This presentation will review the importance of Toxocara cati as a pathogen of cats and a potential zoonosis, provide current prevalence data for pet cats in the United States, and suggest strategies to limit infections with Toxocara cati.
Toxocara cati is the most commonly identified intestinal parasite in cats
Cats in North America may be infected with ascarids (Toxocara cati, Toxascaris leonina), hookworms (Ancylstoma tubaeforme, A. braziliense, or rarely Uncinaria stenocephala), and Giardia spp. Of these, ascarid infection, particularly infection with T. cati, is by far the most common. Cats acquire ascarids by ingestion of larvated eggs or ingestion of larvae in the muscle tissues of transport hosts; with continued exposure the risk of infection and re-infection remains high throughout the life of a cat. Transplacental transmission of T. cati is not known to occur, but kittens may infected from the dam transmammarily.
Toxocara cati as a zoonotic agent
Like Toxocara canis from dogs, Toxocara cati is a zoonotic pathogen capable of inducing visceral and ocular larva migrans as well as other forms of toxocariasis in people. People, usually children, become infected with T. cati when they ingest larvated, infective eggs from an environment previously contaminated with feces from an infected cat. A recent survey revealed 13.9% of people in the US are seropositive to Toxocara spp.; seroprevalence was higher in rural communities and in those of lower socioeconomic status (Won et al., 2008). Indeed, toxocariasis is now considered a disease of poverty in the US (Hotez, 2009). Toxocara cati contributes to the disease burden in people, in part, because cats remain highly susceptible to infection with T. cati throughout their life. Cats of all ages may harbor ascarids and cats are also much less likely that dogs to be maintained on a monthly heartworm preventive product with efficacy against ascarids, and thus infections are more likely to persist long-term. Because many pet cats have access to a litter box in the home, the risk of zoonotic infection exists indoors as well as in the area around the home where cats defecate.