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What are Brain Parasites?

The term “brain parasite” is used to describe any of a number of different parasitic creatures that can affect the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Cats are susceptible to several different types of parasites that can potentially make their way into the brain and related tissues. Symptoms can range from non-existent to severe and may be fatal in some cases. Parasites in the brain often cause encephalitis or brain inflammation, which causes the majority of symptoms. Cats suffering from a brain parasite may experience behavior changes and issues with muscle control. Parasites are more likely in cats that are allowed outdoors, eat food they catch or raw meat, have immune disorders, or live in cramped conditions with other animals.

Brain Parasites Average Cost

From 438 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$500

Symptoms of Brain Parasites in Cats

Symptoms of brain parasites can vary, and some cats with parasite activity in the brain and related tissues will never present any symptoms. Most symptoms relate to activity controlled by the central nervous system including muscle control, behavior, and occasionally hearing or vision issues. The cat may also exhibit signs related to parasite infestation in other parts of the body. Parasites in the lungs, gastrointestinal system and urinary tract may have localized as well as neurological symptoms. 

Symptoms Include:

  • Unsteady gait (ataxia)
  • Loss of muscle control
  • General weakness
  • Listlessness
  • Circling
  • Unusual head or neck position
  • Fearlessness
  • Unexplained aggression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Inability to eat or drink
  • Emaciation
  • Deafness
  • Blindness
  • Inflammation of the brain
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Breathing trouble
  • Death

Types

Various types of parasites can make their way into the brain and related tissues. Parasites that can be found in the central nervous system include:

  • Flukes – two types of these parasitic creatures can make their home in the brain. Schistosomes, or blood flukes, and Paragonimus, or lung flukes, have both been found in the central nervous system.
  • Roundworms – this common type of parasite affects various regions of the body, including the brain and spinal column. Varieties that can infest the brain include, Baylisascaris procyonis which can cause brain and eye damage, Dirofilaria immitis or heartworm, and Gurlita paralysans, which causes paralysis. 
  • Myiasis – these are infestations related to insect larvae, and include Cuterebra or botfly larvae, which pets are susceptible to in the summer months in regions where the botfly is found. 
  • Toxoplasma gondii – this single-celled parasite can also infest brain tissues, causing issues. It is commonly present throughout the world and can be passed from cat to human and vice versa. 
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Causes of Brain Parasites in Cats

Brain parasites enter your cat’s system much the same way as any parasite. The most common cause is ingestion, usually through a food source like raw meat or wildlife. Risk factors include spending time outdoors, living in cramped quarters with other animals, and unmonitored eating habits. Once inside your pet, the parasite takes full advantage of its host, growing to maturity and laying its own eggs, which further the infestation. When the adult parasites, larvae, or eggs find their way through the bloodstream or nasal passages into the central nervous system, they can cause damage to the brain and other related systems. In some cases, the eggs form cysts that put pressure on brain, eye, and ear structures causing symptoms.

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Diagnosis of Brain Parasites in Cats

A veterinarian can diagnose brain parasites by confirming the presence of the parasite, its larvae, or its eggs in your pet’s system if clinical signs point to the condition. Other diseases and disorders can cause similar symptoms, so your veterinarian may need to conduct several tests to rule out other potential issues. Be prepared to discuss your cat’s history, eating habits, and all symptoms you have observed. A physical examination will be followed up with a blood, urine, and fecal analysis. In many cases, spinal fluid will also be obtained and analyzed. Your veterinarian may use additional methods to check for parasites, including imaging technology and contrast dyes.

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Treatment of Brain Parasites in Cats

The treatment plan for your pet will vary based on the type of parasite and severity of the symptoms. Many pets will not require any treatment, as some brain parasites have short life cycles and will not continue to cause harm to your cat. If treatment is required, your veterinarian may choose one or more of the following treatment methods:

  • Antiparasitics – This family of drugs may be used to kill off the adult parasites and prevent further damage. There are several versions available that can treat worms and related parasites. Your cat may receive oral or injectable versions. 
  • Analgesics – A type of painkiller, this may be prescribed to your pet if they are experiencing severe pain related to their condition. Your veterinarian will select the safest dose based on your cat’s size and pain level. 
  • Intravenous (IV) Fluids – Lack of appetite and loss of muscle control can make it difficult for your pet to take in food and water. If your cat is experiencing these symptoms or is being hospitalized, IV fluids will likely be provided. 
  • Oxygen Therapy – In the case of respiratory trouble, oxygen may be given to your cat using tubes, masks, or oxygen cages. This will help support your pet’s breathing and blood oxygen levels.
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Recovery of Brain Parasites in Cats

Many cats with a brain parasite will make a full recovery. Continue to follow the directions of your veterinarian, providing the full course of prescribed medications and returning for follow-up visits as needed. Seek assistance immediately if symptoms appear to worsen or don’t get better after several days. It is also a good idea to thoroughly clean your cat’s living area, including all food and water dishes and their litter box. Scoop the litter box daily and wash your hands.

In severe cases, your pet may lose some of its abilities. Vision or hearing loss caused by the brain parasite may be permanent. Even if your cat experiences loss of vision or hearing, they can still lead a full life. Provide your pet additional support and time as they adjust to their new ability level and learn to compensate with their other senses.

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Brain Parasites Average Cost

From 438 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$500

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Brain Parasites Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Not sure

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3 or 4 yrs old

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Attacking Other Pets An People Out Of The Blue.

Why would out cat out of no where start attacking us when we haven't done anything wrong.. she had kittens almost 9 weeks ago was acting strange in the kennel so we let her out to walk around an she just started to attach everyone she was biting and scratching my 7 yr old son for no reason.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There are a number of reasons that may have happened, and it is difficult for me to say over an email. There may have been something that scared her, she may have had some hormonal changes related to being in heat again, or she may have had something happen that made her angry. Having her spayed might be the first step in controlling any hormonal changes that she goes through, as that can alter a cat's personality quite dramatically. I hope that everything goes well for her.

Oct. 6, 2020

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Max

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Ginger moggy

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15 Weeks

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Circling
Seizures
Fleas
Blindness
Not Eating For Ages

I’m not sure really if this is part of this. But my 15 week kitten has been having seizures since he was 10 weeks. Went vets twice they don’t know what is wrong. We have stuff to help him just incase it’s hyperglycaemia or epilepsy but he’s just thrown up and turns out he also has tapeworms, can these cause seizures?

Sept. 7, 2018

Max's Owner

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Roxie

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DOMESTIC

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10 Months

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Bloat Gas Walking, Eyes,

my cat currently pupils retract with torch lite but when finger goes over no response, she knows who I am and sits forward and moves closer to me. They operated on her and she was full of gas in bowl and intestines, her faeces were unusual, her back legs she took two steps on tippy toes and then sat and then two steps, two vets noticed back pain, urine so thick wouldn't show up on measurement scale and said she has a uti and is dehydrated. She is not eating at the vet and came out of operation yesterday and is on a pain killer but they are going to put her on cortisone tomorrow and hope she has less pain and said it doesn't matter about her wounds just need to get her pain better. We took her to vet with bloating and her walking concern the next day when vet opened he told us he give injection of pain killer and rest her for 10-14 days and then another vet rang us from someone where else and disagreed but they have cut her open done blood test and electrolites and can't figure out what is going on. I just want my girl to come she is only 10 months old and her brother misses her. I just want to know what this is so we can treat it.

Sept. 1, 2018

Roxie's Owner

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Czarina

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Russian Blue Feline

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Circling
Fever
Lethargy
Aggression
Sneezing
Loss Of Appetite
Third Eyelid Closed

My cat that is just over a year only went outside on leash and a run due to predators in area. She often stuck her whole arm in burrows and caught small animals. Symptoms developed rapidly, within 12 hours. ER Vet hospital with neurologist was recommended. MRI, Spinal tap, blood tests, IV fluids, ivermectin, prednisone, $4,000. Homecare of veraflox, prednisone, gabapentin, self administered subcutaneous fluids, clinical care food via syringe, milk via kitten bottle. Cat wants to eat on own but is having a hard time locating food with very limited sight out of right eye only. Hasn’t found water fountain at all yet. Mainly eating via syringe. Aggression increases as she is becoming more physically well (neurological and probably fed up with poking/priding/shoving things down throat). She is still playful, follows laser pointer and toys. Peeing in litter box with less frequency and higher volume. Defacation frequency greatly reduced, also due to dehydration and pain medication side effects. We are one month out from onset with great physical and mental gains, though progress is slow and expectations moderate. Hope this helps anyone researching feline ischemic encephalopathy from a cuterebra parasite brain infection.

Aug. 31, 2018

Czarina's Owner

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Shadow

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Cat

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5 Weeks

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Circling
Head Shaking
Crying
Thirsty
Heavy Breathing

Took in a rescue kitten that a mother abandoned in my neighbors shed and have taken good care of her,she was great untill today,we have had her for a month now but today she ran in circles bumping into things and after a minute of that she stopped and was stuck in place shaking,she calmed down and drank water and started running again jumping over things,I hold her to stop her from hurting herself and her heart is racing ,she calms down and is monitored for an hour and seems to be back to her old self ,then stumbling as if drunk ,rolling around and eventually diarrhea on herself while laying on her side,,she is breathing heavy and still from time to time kissing balance and falling over ,,I haven't had a chance to get her shots done ,,I am still recovering from paying 1500 in vet bills for my dog in an emergency and other major bills that piled up when taking care of my family,don't have a car right now to take her to the vet and I live in the middle of no where so I need help in what this is and what to do myself while I figure out how i will get her to the vet

July 31, 2018

Shadow's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Shadow it is difficult to say specifically what the underlying cause of the symptoms are; head trauma, congenital abnormalities, parasites, infections, poisoning among other causes may cause similar symptoms. You should ensure that Shadow is up to date on worming (should be every two weeks at this age) and that food is appropriate for age; without examining her I cannot give a specific diagnosis or prescribe a prescription medication but offer supportive and symptomatic care in the meantime and visit a Veterinarian when you have chance. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 1, 2018

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Hunter

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Domestic Long Haired

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Depression
Anemia
Lethargy
Paralysis
Blood In Stool
Diarroeah
Loss Off Balance
Paralysis Of Back Right Leg
ParalysisG
Urinary Retention
Fars

My cat started getting diarreah about 2 weeks ago and started toileting outsuide the litter box. I noticed that she also seemed a bit off balance and wobbly on her hind legs. She was also quite lethargic and seemed depressed. 2 days ago I woke up to her crashing into things as she had completely lost the use of her back right leg. she became over sensitive to sounds and developed FARS. Tested at vets- SHe has lost half her weight (was 4.4kg went down to 2.2kg) in 6 months since her last vet visit. Heart health seems good and paralysed leg still has a pulse though she cant urinate and has to be expressed manually. They have tested her for toxoplasmosis, FIV, FeLV liver, kidney and thyroid function, diabetes. Found slight increase of 2 liver enzymes in blood and high white blood cells- low red blood cell count (anaemia) but all other bloods normal. They have also sent of a bllod smear for mycoplasma but they have no idea what is wrong with her - could it be cause by brain parasites? I have been treating her with natural wormwood as parasite preventionwhich I have since been advised is not a great idea and she has since had a dose of millbemax multi wormer. She is currently on 2 different antibiotics, steroids, and a probiotic as well as ID digestive prescription food.

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Pepper

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Domestic long hair

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8 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Trips
Never Stands
Can’T Walk Properly
Can’T Squat
Sever Muscle Loss In Rear Legs
Reluctance To Jump
Wobbly Rear Gait

My kitten stopped jumping on the bed or the couch. He stopped running around. His rear legs seemed to be dragging so we went to the vet. The vet took an X-ray and and the results came back normal. They did a snap test and those results came back normal too. The blood work Cameron back with elevated MCH and white blood cells. Over the weekend pepper stopped sitting in the litter box and just lies down to pee and poop. The vet thinks that little pepper might have a parasite in his spinal fluid but the tests are thousands of dollars. She also said that because it is rapidly gettting worse the prognosis is poor to grave. I’m really worried about my cat. Any advice?

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Miny

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Cat

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1 Month

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Balance

I have 4 kitten and from yesterday suddenly they stop moving and crying all of them can't walk ND move. All of them are not interested in food. I just don't know what to do. Their mother is no accepting them.

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Tinsel

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Feline

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1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt

I have a 1yrs female cat. She has similar symptoms like this before but no where as bad. Her pupils are not dilating the same and the reflection is not the same she also acting like she can't see at times she gets very aggressive and scared the slightest movement startles her. She is eating drinking peeing and pooping normally she is not having any other symptoms other than the pupils the reflection and the head tilt tick kind of. This is all coming in spells it is not happening all the time and the last two days she's had three spells that I know of. she has had symptoms similar of this in the past. she has had the dilation of her pupils and the reflection the same we just talked it up to a possible concussion considering she was a very very active kitten it seem like she was hitting her head on everything. I have done some research myself on her symptoms and I've kind of narrowed it down to two different things I think it could possibly be an inner ear infection that is causing this but she is not having any balance issues. And my my second theory is it could be a parasite I have treated her in I have treated her in the past for parasites roundworm to be exact and two days ago I noticed she had some mucousy blood in her stool which is telling that she probably has roundworm again. I researched roundworm can get into the and cause similar symptoms to what she is having. If you have any suggestions or any advice you are willing to share I take care of 15 cats from my local Humane Society and I do not have the funds right now to take her the veterinarian and the Humane Society does not either thank you so much for your help. I

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Charlotte

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Siamese

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3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly Rear Gait

My grandma's indoor cat started getting wobbly back legs about 2 months ago. Vet put it down to a parasite and treated her for 6 weeks. After treatment she was still wobbly and was betting treated with prednisone. The last three days she started vomiting and appeared very ill. She had a temp of 39.4 which has now returned to normal but she won't eat or drink and is very wobbly and won't move from 1 spot in the house. The vet took bloods and said everything appears normal. She used to catch lizards when on supervised outside walks. After recently putting my pop into an aged care facility im worried my grandma's best friend won't pull through and don't think she will handle the trauma after all she has been through with my pop whom contracted staph from our local hospital and it has ruined him. She definately doesn't have any pain in back legs but we noticed she was nibbling at her back claws all the time. Any help is greatly appreciated as im not sure our vet is exploring all avenues even though they are lovely compassionate people. She gave her an injection of valium today and a tablet to try make her eat today and doesn't appear to be doing well. She is also breathing very fast.

Brain Parasites Average Cost

From 438 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$500

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