The protozoa are single-celled microorganisms belonging to the kingdom Protista, which includes several other single celled microorganisms. The protozoa stand out for their animalistic behavior, in that they are able to move from place to place on their own, and consume organic matter as a source of energy, as animals do.
Some protozoa have been discovered to be harmful to animals and humans, taking on a parasitic form and infecting a host animal. Trichomoniasis is a disease caused by a type of anaerobic (capable of living without oxygen) protozoan called trichomonas. Normally inhabiting the large intestine, Trichomonas cause inflammation of the large bowel.
Young cats under the age of one year are most disposed to this infection. Although it is very unlikely to be passed to humans or dogs, care must be taken to prevent the spread of this infection to other cats.
Symptoms and Types
- Intermittent diarrhea
- Diarrhea may contain blood and mucus
- Swelling and redness of the anus
- Pain in the anal area
- Protrusion of the rectum through the anus in severe cases
You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat's health and recent activities. Your veterinarian will then perform a complete physical exam on your cat. Standard laboratory work will include a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel, a fecal analysis, and a urinalysis in order to determine the exact origin of the symptoms and the exact organism responsible. The laboratory test results are often within normal range in affected cats, except for the derangements related to the diarrhea.
If your cat is unable to produce a fecal sample, another method for taking a sample is by a fecal swab, by which a cotton swab is inserted into the anus to collect a sufficient amount for analysis. The parasite, if it is present, will be obvious under a microscope by its characteristic tails, and will differentiate it from other parasitic forms. This type of fecal culture can also be used to grow the parasite for confirmatory diagnosis.
A more specific and advanced test called PCR (polymerase chain reaction) may also be available for the confirmatory diagnosis. This is the best test for confirming, since it is more sensitive and will show the presence of the genetic material that makes up the trichomonas organism. Whether this test can be used for diagnostic purposed will depend on whether your veterinarian has fast access to a laboratory that can perform the analysis.