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Gardening, Parasites and You and Your Cat

Image00087Are you a gardener? Do you have houseplants? I think we tend think that the only things we need to worry about when we garden are getting our plants to grow, and getting the dirt out from under our fingernails when we are done for the day. It’s just dirt, right? Not really, and unfortunately what we don’t know can hurt us.

Most people in the United States who are infected with a parasite called toxoplasmosis caught it by eating unwashed produce or undercooked meat. Toxoplasmosis is also transmitted for 3-4 weeks in the stool of infected cats. Toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects in babies and infections in immuno-compromised people.

In a recent study, 12% of potting soils were found to carry roundworm eggs. Roundworms usually infect cats and dogs but people can get infected as well. Children in particular are at risk and can become blind from the roundworm parasite. Cats can get infected by digging in, or nibbling on the houseplants.

Hookworm larvae in the soil can be spread to people and cause a nasty and itchy dermatitis when there is direct contact with the skin.

So the take home tips for today are: wash your produce before eating it even when it comes from your own garden; wash your hands after gardening both outside and inside including handling potting soil and household plants; wash your hands after cleaning the litter box (talk to your physician if you are pregnant about wearing gloves or having someone clean the litter box); eat your meat well done; and have your cat’s stool sample checked twice a year if your cat goes outside, and yearly if it is an inside only cat!

Dr. Sadek

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