What is Sarcocystis Infection?
Sarcocystis is common in cats, particularly those that live around herbivores, such farm animals like cattle, horses, and pigs. Cats in this living situation often serve as a carrier for the parasite, which is the same organism that causes equine protozoal meningitis, a neurological disease commonly found in horses.
Sarcocystis is a member of the group of microscopic protozoan parasites generally termed as coccidia. These parasites inhabit the intestines and other bodily organs of their hosts and can cause gastrointestinal disease. An infestation of the parasite is known as sarcocystosis, an illness that can be found in both domestic and exotic cats, as well as other animals species and humans.
Symptoms of Sarcocystis Infection in Cats
Some cats will never show symptoms of sarcocystosis. The symptoms they may suffer from are also common of other illnesses, making a veterinary diagnosis a must. These symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Bloody feces
- Mucus in feces
- Straining to defecate
These symptoms can be signs of many illnesses, and when left unchecked can lead to more severe issues. No matter what the underlying illness may be, take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible when any of the symptoms arise
Sarcocystis is not the only common intestinal coccidian species. Others include:
Each of these intestinal parasites can be diagnosed and treated the same way as Sarcocystis. Your veterinarian may diagnose with the umbrella designation of coccidia, rather than a specific species of parasite.
Causes of Sarcocystis Infection in Cats
Most commonly the parasites that cause sarcocystosis and other coccidian infections are spread through fecal matter and can pass between different animals, and species. Farm animals are the most likely to spread this illness to cats and dogs that live among them. Cats that live on a farm are more susceptible to infection than those that live in a normal home environment. These are just a few of many diseases that can be spread to cats and other pets through contact with fecal matter, providing an important reason to keep homes and litter boxes clean and to keep domestic pets indoors.
The Sarcocystis parasites can also be spread through raw meat. If you are feeding your pets a raw food diet, or if they are hunting for food, they risk contracting Sarcocystis infection. Pets that have a habit of eating unfamiliar items, food or otherwise, have an increased risk of contracting this, and other, illnesses.
If you feed your cat a raw food diet it is important to discuss the risk factors of this type of diet with your veterinarian. There are safety precautions that can be taken to help reduce the risk of bacteria and parasites.
Diagnosis of Sarcocystis Infection in Cats
A fecal flotation test is one way to diagnose coccidia, and any of its types. This isn't always the most reliable form of diagnosis, and your vet may need to do a histopathology through the tissues of the lungs, kidney, spleen, liver, brain, or even the muscles. With tissue testing, the veterinarian will be looking for cysts that are caused by the infection.
There is more specialized testing available, which must be performed in a research facility rather than a veterinary clinic. This includes immunohistochemistry (a way of detecting antigens in tissue) and PCR (an examination of the DNA sequence).
Treatment of Sarcocystis Infection in Cats
An outpatient treatment is common for cats with any coccidia diagnosis. A sulfa based medication, like clindamycin or sulfadiazine, is generally administered. For cats with more severe symptoms, intravenous fluids and blood transfusions may be necessary.
There is no vaccine available to prevent your cat from getting this infection. The symptoms that your cat may suffer likely be the focus of treatment. Severe diarrhea or vomiting can cause dehydration, which left untreated can lead to death.
Recovery of Sarcocystis Infection in Cats
Recovery for this infection requires the use of medications. It may also require dietary changes which can help ensure your cat is eating fewer foreign items. Never feed your cat uncooked meat, and immediately dispose of any wild kills you see them come in contact with.
It is also important to dispose of feces, whether that involves keeping the litter box clean or raking out livestock stalls on a regular basis. By removing the likely source of the infection you can better protect your cat from infection.
After treatment, watch for changes in eating habits and energy levels. Your vet may recommend follow-up fecal testing to confirm the parasites have been removed.
Sarcocystis Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My cat has shown signs of sickness for awhile, but it seemed to be what we assumed basic allergies. It would come and go but recently it has came and became worse.Right now her condition is her entire left side of her face is swollen,the tissue in her left nostril is hanging out and bleeds along with snot, and her left eye is almost completely closed due to the swelling. We took her to the vet twice and without a cat scan to view any tumors the only thing they can offer is pain medication and steroids. After the first time we went to the vet the swelling had increased to what the vet said may be the steriods so now we are repeating the pain relief shots and treatment without the steroids. My biggest concern is swelling taking over her entire face and pain increasing along with what may be a possible naisle tumor. Does this sound like a tumor? And is there any other possible diagnoses?
Add a comment to Kutiepie's experience
Was this experience helpful?