Feline Trichomoniasis is a disease that afflicts cats suffering from an infestation of a Tritrichomonas parasitic bacteria colony. There are two species of Tritrichomonas parasites that affect cats, T. foetus and T. blagburni. The parasites are eukaryotic and can colonize in feline colons and bovine reproductive organs.1
Feline Trichomoniasis is non-fatal and often does not critically harm cats. Though valid options for treating Trichomaniasis exist, if left untreated the symptoms will cease in 88% of cats within the first two years of infection. Though its symptoms may subside, the parasites might continue to reside in the cat such that they can still spread the infection.
Trichomaniasis is caused by the spread of the Tritrichomonas parasites. The parasites are transmitted via direct contact and are common in areas that contain multiple cats such as shelters. It also occurs most commonly in purebreds and in cats that are under one year of age. The two known species of parasites that cause trichomaniasis are Tritrichomonas foetus and Tritrichomonas blagburni.
What is Tritrichomonas foetus?
T. foetus is a parasite found in cows and cats that can lead to the seriously deadly Tritrichomiasis. The parasite is a single celled flagellated eukaryote. This means that it is a single cell with a membrane that encapsulates a nucleus and other organelles and travels via a series of flagella, or whip-like appendages that drag the cell where it needs to go.
The microscopic flagellate moves in a jerky manner and look like small tadpoles when examined through a microscope. Comparative studies performed on T. foetus and Giardia show no evidence of T. foetus transmission through food, drink or interspecies contact.2
What is Tritrichomonas blagburni?
T. blagburni is another species of the Tritrichomonas and is also a flagellated eukaryote. As a member of the Tritrichomonas genus, it is very similar to T. foetus in both its effects (causing tritrichomonas) and in its structure. Additionally, the treatment for trichomoniasis is the same for both species.
Both T. foetus and T. blagburni proliferate across mucus membranes. The parasites harm the cat by attaching themselves to intestinal epithelium and interacting with other bacteria. Both members are also closely related to Tritrichomonas suis and Tritrichomonas mobilensis, neither of which are known to cause feline trichomaniasis as they have never been found in cats.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The most common symptom of trichomaniasis is particularly foul-smelling stool of a loose consistency followed by a bloody discharge. Generally, the cats do not lose weight and seem completely healthy other than their defecation. To diagnose trichomaniasis, veterinarians will likely search for the cause of the disease which can be either T. Foetus or T. Blagburni. A similar disorder can be caused by a third protozoan eukaryotic parasite, Giardia. The veterinarian should test for all three parasites to determine which one is afflicting the patient.
To test for these parasites, veterinarians will use one of three techniques which include a direct fecal smear, examination of a fecal culture, a colon biopsy, or polymerase chain reaction. The direct fecal smear examines feces in a saline solution and has a low efficacy rate of identifying the parasite in approximately 14% of infected cats.
Fecal culture smears differ in that they provide growth mediums to the sample before testing for an efficacy rate of 55% successful diagnoses. The Polymerase Chain Reaction is one of the more sensitive methods of testing and detects organisms that are both alive and deceased. This method is nearly 100% effective.
Though there is no vaccine for Tritrichomonas strains currently available to cats, you can help prevent the spread of the disease by isolating cats that are known carriers of the disease and preventing large amounts of cats from sharing close quarters. Aside from preventative measures, there are a few methods trusted to combat these parasites, though none have been approved for veterinary use in the United States.
Currently, it is combated with non-approved antibiotics that seem to do the trick in reducing the severity of the symptoms. These antibiotics are primarily metronidazole and Ronidazole but also include a wide variety of similar antibiotics.
Due to its current status and the possible side effect of neurotoxicity, Ronidazole is only used in cats that have been confirmed through diagnosis to be infested with T. foetus or T. blagburni. That being said, it is generally recognized and effective solution.