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Insidious Parasites Affecting Pet Cats

There are many insidious parasites affecting outdoor cats. If you think it is cruel to keep a cat indoors, think again. some of these dangerous parasites affecting cats can be transmitted to humans. Hookworm, tapeworm, coccidia and heartworm are some of common parasites affecting outdoor pet cats. However, the most insidious of parasites is probably the raccoon roundworm found in Mid-West America. The eggs are almost indestructible. The raccoon roudnworm infects more than 50 species of animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits, hares, squirrels, chinchillas, guinea pigs, mice, rats and birds as well as humans. The roundworm parasites have caused human deaths, usually children.

Raccoon Roundworm

The raccoon roundworms have an interesting life cycle. It is spreaded by the fecces of raccoon. There are millions of eggs in an infected raccoon's fecces. The raccoon fecces would disintegrated and be unwittingly indigested by other animals such as squirrel and rabbits but can include human and cats. The larvae would grow in the host and eventually travel through the brain in order to kill the host. It is necessary for the host to die, so that the roundworm eggs can be spread. When rats, cats or raccoon to eat the tissue of the dead host, it will pick up roundworm eggs and start a new life cycle. Amazingly, raccoons are impervious to the presence of the roundworm parasite. And more interestingly, other than racoon, animals that are affected with this parasite cannot pass it on to anyone else. The larva will not become a mature adult capable of producing eggs unless it is in a raccoon.

When an animal other than a racoon swallows the roundworm eggs, the eggs hacted into microscopic larva in the intestine and then burrow through the wall of the intestine and begin migrating through the body. It moves rapidly in order to escape the body's defence mechanism. The roundworm larva seem to have a preference for the liver, eyes, spinal cord and brain, although they can be found in other organs. When a larva settles in an organ, it causes a great deal of damage as the body tries to fight it. If the larva does not cause significant damage in vital organs then the victim will show no signs of disease. However, in small animal such as a mouse, it may take only one or two larve in the brain to be fatal.

The symptoms of raccoon rondworm infection include sudden lethargy, loss of balance, abdominal pain, paralysis of one or both sides of the body, loss of coordination, head tilt, blindness and coma. In humans, these symptoms appear around 2 to 4 weeks after infection. There is a blood test available to detect if a person has developed antibodies to the parasite.

Unfortunately, there is no effective cure for raccoon roundworm infection. Most antiparasitic drugs either cannot get into the tissue in high enough doses once the parasite is being walled off by the body's defence mechanism. The best treatment to do is to use high levels of corticosteroids to try to suppress the inflammation in the affected tissues. Corticoteroids will not reverse all the tissue damage, but it may minimize the trauma to the organs.

So the best defence is prevention. If you live in America and let your cat roam outdoor. Think again.

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