Toxoplasmosis- What is Toxoplasma Gondii & How to Prevent an Infection in Raw Fed Dogs/Cats?

October 20, 2021

toxoplasma gondii infection; which foods to avoid and how to mitigate the risk in dogs & cats (raw fed pets)
If you happen to feed a balanced homemade diet (raw or cooked), then it is very likely that you may have heard of the term toxoplasmosis or toxoplasma gondii infection. The topic of toxoplasmosis typically comes up during discussions of feeding raw mussels, raw oysters, and even raw wild game meat to dogs and cats. But what is toxoplasmosis/toxoplasma gondii?

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite which is transmitted across species (ie. from animals to humans), and causes a disease process called Toxoplasmosis.

The manifestation of the disease is detailed as follows, “while infection with T. gondii in humans is very common, clinical disease is largely confined to risk groups. Most cases of T. gondii infections in immunocompetent humans are asymptomatic. Occasionally, various mild symptoms may be observed of which lymphadenopathy is the most significant clinical manifestation]. Severe manifestations, such as encephalitis, sepsis syndrome/shock, myocarditis, or hepatitis may occur, but are very rare in immunocompetent humans” (Tenter, 2000).

So while Toxoplasma gondii is common and can be contracted in multiple ways due to the life cycle of the parasite, infection rarely leads to serious symptoms in healthy humans/animals with properly functioning immune systems

What is the best way to prevent Toxoplasma Gondii infection?

“Tissue cysts in meat are made noninfectious by heating the meat to 67C°/153°F i.e., should be cooked to “well done” with no pink meat visible in the center, or by freezing it to −20°C/−4°F
(which is not attainable in most home freezers) for at least 48 hours.

Meat that is smoked, cured in brine, or dried may still be infectious.

Oysters, clams, or mussels should not be eaten raw.

Hands should be washed thoroughly after handling raw meat or vegetables, eggs should not be eaten raw, and unpasteurized milk (particularly milk from goats) should be avoided. Vectors such as flies and cockroaches should be controlled. Areas contaminated with cat feces should be avoided altogether. Disposable gloves should be worn while disposing of cat litter material, working in the garden, or cleaning a child’s sandbox.

Oocysts are killed if the cat litter pan is soaked in nearly boiling water for 5 minutes. If the litter pan is cleaned every day, oocysts will not have a chance to sporulate. Serologic testing of cats is unwarranted because testing does not demonstrate whether the infected cat is excreting oocysts.

Untreated water has been shown to be an effective vehicle for the transmission of the parasite, and drinking water sources potentially contaminated with oocytes should be avoided.” (Montoya, 3385)

Does this mean I can no longer feed raw meat to my dogs or cats because they may be at risk for contracting toxoplasmosis?

Not necessarily.

While a balanced cooked diet is certainly a great option for dogs and cats, if you source high quality meats meant for human consumption, they should have already been frozen to an appropriate temperature and they should have also been thoroughly inspected before ever reaching the shelves of your grocery store.

Different countries will have varying food health, safety and management laws/protocols, so it is best to familiarise yourself with the guidelines of the country in which you reside.

Do I need to cook oysters and mussels before feeding them to my dogs or cats?

Toxoplasma gondii is not the only potentially harmful protozoan parasite that shellfish can carry.

Shellfish like oysters and mussels can harbour bacteria they ingest from their habitat. And because of high water pollution, as these shellfish feed, they ingest bacteria along with the nutrients they draw from the water. The bacteria they ingest are often harmless to the shellfish but can be dangerous to people/animals who eat the infected seafood.

So feeding raw or undercooked shellfish would be ill advised.


Hope this was helpful to some!

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