Why you should not kiss your cat

Olufemi Oboye

If you are pregnant please avoid direct contact with cats or cat faeces.

The reason is that cats infected with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii can transmit it to human beings that come in contact with their faeces.

If a pregnant woman is infected, the parasites pass through the placenta to the developing fetus and cause spontaneous abortion, stillbirth or premature birth.

If the pregnancy is carried to full term, the child may be born blind, mentally retarded, or possess heart and brain defects.

A majority of persons with a healthy immune system will show no severe symptoms of toxoplasma infection. However, if the immune system is compromised (as in persons living with HIV/AIDS) some symptoms of toxoplasmosis may include fever, muscle pain, sore throat and headache. Unless tests are carried out to confirm a Toxoplasma infection, these symptoms can be taken for “flu”.

Besides cats, the parasite can also infect various species of animals such as sheep, birds, goats, cattle, pigs and poultry. But of all these animals, cats are the most common source of the Toxoplasma parasite that are transmitted to other animals or people because the toxoplasma parasite reproduces only in cats.

Human to human transmission occurs only from mother to child but animal to human transmission can occur after handling contaminated animals, raw meat or having contact with food (raw or under cooked pork or beef), water, dirt (soil), or dust contaminated with cat feces. Direct contamination is possible through open wounds. Infection from blood transfusions and organ transplants from infected donors is rare, but it has been reported.

The long-term or chronic effects of the infection result when the parasite spread to the brain and muscle cells. Another form of the disease can also affect the eyes, leading to partial loss of sight or to blindness in one or both eyes. Although toxoplasmosis can affect any organ in the body, the lymph nodes, skeletal and heart muscles, and the brain are most commonly involved.

To prevent toxoplasmosis, pregnant women should avoid touching or changing cat litter boxes; persons living with HIV/AIDS who own or work with or around animals should take extra precautions and always use or wear personal protective gear such as coveralls, boots and gloves. Do not clean poultry droppings or touch young farm animals, especially if they have diarrhoea.

In addition, do not give your pet a kiss especially if your pet is a cat, never let a pet lick wounds or open surfaces on your body. Furthermore, avoid contact with exotic pets especially if the animal is taken from its natural environment. Examples of exotic pets include snakes, lizards and turtles.

Please feel free to send your comments and questions via email and SMS. I will love to share the answers to your questions next week. Have a beautiful weekend!

Ask the vet doctor

My neighbour has a dog that is very aggressive. It growls and barks a lot. From a distance, how can I know if the dog has rabies or not?

Well, you can ask your neighbour for the vaccination certificate of the dog. If the last vaccination was given within the last one year, then you may rule out the possibility of rabies. However, from a distance, early signs of rabies in animals may include excessive salivation, sudden increase in aggression to humans, other animals and even inanimate objects such as sticks, stones, etc.

I will advise you to have a ‘peaceful’ discussion with your neighbour in a bid to ensure that the dog is placed in a secure kennel or restrained with a strong collar and leash.

A friend advised me to add palm oil to my dog’s food. What do you think?

Yes. Palm oil is quite nutritious because it contains vitamin A, which is an essential canine vitamin. It helps in the maintenance of vision, stimulates appetite, and also helps to maintain the skin and coat. However, you should ensure that it is not too much. One to two table spoons per meal is just ok.

What can I do to make my dog grow bigger?

Growing “big” is based on several factors which include breed, age, sex, genetics, pedigree, etc.

Every dog breed has an average size and weight. Some breeds remain short and others such as the Doberman always look very thin even if you feed them with all the food you have in your pantry. In addition, male dogs are averagely taller than the females. A few tips that will help your dog to grow to its full potential include – Daily feeding of at least two to three filling meals, provision of clean drinking water, daily administration of the multivitamin supplements, routine visits to the veterinarian (at least bi-monthly) for regular checkups and routine exercises.

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Source: Punch

May 12, 2017

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