Dear Dr. John,
I am writing about a concern I have regarding my health and how it relates to my 5-year-old cat.
My cat is a hunter and goes outside on a daily basis, catching all sorts of rodents and bringing some home. The cat is properly vaccinated against distemper and rabies, and we live in a suburban/-rural area. Depending on the time of year, he has been known to bring home or cough up parts of bunnies, field mice, snakes and birds. Once he caught a bat!
My concern is that I have a type of brain cancer called glioma. I heard recently that it could have been caused by toxoplasmosis that my cat may have transmitted to me and that the cat may have caught it because of his outdoor activities.
Is there any chance that my cat may have brought this disease on? I love my cat and do not want to think that this may have caused my problem.
I am terribly sorry to hear about your cancer. The truth is no one is certain what causes gliomas.
Some people may be genetically predisposed to them. The tumor type has been allegedly associated with electro-magnetic radiation from the use of cellphones, but this, too, is not conclusive. Another possibility is concurrent infection with cytomegalovirus, but again, none of this is definitive.
As for toxoplasmosis (toxo) causing or being associated with gliomas, there is not much to go on. A recent article suggested a correlation, but all that concluded was that in a given area with a higher incidence of gliomas in people, there was a higher incidence of toxoplasmosis in cats. There apparently was no direct cause-and-effect relationship between the two. Toxo has not been tied to any other types of brain tumors, per se.
Besides, you don’t even know if your cat has toxoplasmosis or has even been exposed despite his hunting prowess. Cats with toxo may suffer mild diarrhea or a loss of appetite, but that can be due to a lot of different causes.
Many people have been exposed because they handled soil with cat feces or ate infected, undercooked meats. Cats get it from eating raw meats, too. Toxo often gets mentioned when pregnant women are told not to empty litter boxes so they and the developing fetuses do not get exposed.
In conclusion, I do not think your cat in any way brought on your cancer, and I wish you all the best as you battle your condition.
John de Jong, D.V.M., is the owner/ operator of the Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic and CEO/director at Boston Animal Hospital.Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/entertainment/lifestyle/view.bg?articleid=1406291