Cryptosporidiosis is known as a diarrheal disease caused by the microscopic parasite known as Cryptosporidium. The disease, as well as the parasite, is known as “Crypto”.

Cryptosporidium comes in many species with the ability to infect animals. Some of these are able to infect humans as well. An outer shell protects this animal, allowing it to survive outside the body for long periods. The outer shell makes it tolerate chlorine disinfection.

How it Spreads

This parasite can be spread in many different ways. The most common ways include drinking water as well as recreational water. Cryptosporidium is considered to be a leading cause of waterborne diseases in the United States.

The Symptoms

Symptoms generally begin to show 2-10 days after being infected with the parasite. However, the average timeframe is seven days. Watery diarrhoea is known to be the most common symptom of Cryptosporidiosis.

Other symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis include:

  • Watery diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps or pain
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

It is possible to be infected with crypto and be asymptomatic. This means that your cat might not show any symptoms at all.

Symptoms will generally last 1 to 2 weeks, ranging from a few days up to 4 or more weeks if a person has a healthy immune system. Symptoms may recur for a brief period during recovery, right before the illness comes to an end.

Although the small intestine is most commonly affected by crypto. If your pet is immunocompromised, the cryptosporidium infection may affect other digestive or respiratory tract areas.

Cats with weakened immune systems could develop severe, chronic and sometimes fatal illnesses from Cryptosporidium. 

Cats with weakened immune systems include:

 Cats with a viral infection

  • Those with inherited diseases that affect their immune system
  • Cats that have or have cancer.

The risk of developing severe disease from Cryptosporidiosis may differ depending on each cat’s degree of immunosuppression.

How is Cryptosporidiosis diagnosed in cats

Only a trained veterinarian can make a definitive diagnosis of Cryptosporidiosis. This does not make diagnosis easier. A trained laboratory technician can make the diagnosis by looking at the bacteria under a microscope. Sometimes a definitive diagnosis is nearly impossible, therefore, your vet will make a tentative diagnosis based on your cat’s symptoms and treat the symptoms accordingly. 

The tools available for diagnosis include:

  • Paying attention to your cat’s symptoms
  • A well done physical exam
  • Faecal smear testing

How Cryptosporidiosis is Treated:

This infection is known as self-limiting, vets will choose to treat the symptoms of diarrhoea to prevent further dehydration whilst the virus runs its natural course. 

The known methods of treatment include:

  • Increasing fluid intake to prevent further dehydration, including feeding your cat an increased amount of wet food.
  • Intravenous fluids may be administered if the infection is severe. 
  • An antibiotic may be given if needed.
  • Tylosin may be administered to treat the inflammation in the intestines of small animals. 

Cats Recovering from Cryptosporidiosis

With treatment, a crypto infection might still last anything for as many as 7-14 days. If your cat is otherwise healthy, the prognosis is very good. This is especially relevant for cats who are able to receive an increase in fluids to prevent dehydration and antibiotics to battle extreme diarrhoea. However, if your cat is immunocompromised, recovery may take longer. Cats with poor health could have a negative prognosis that could contribute to their death; this is common with severe cases of intestinal parasitic infection. It is imperative that any cat suffering from this condition receive increased fluid and plenty of rest. Isolation from other animals is required as well, especially other cats.

The prevention of cryptosporidiosis infection is extremely difficult to prevent. This parasite is unable to be killed by most disinfectants. It may even survive a chlorine-based disinfectant. The most effective method of prevention is keeping your cat indoors so that you are better able to control the food and water they consume. Cryptosporidiosis is an expensive infection to treat, therefore, it’s best to have pet insurance. 

A Pawsome Summary

Cryptosporidiosis is a common infection and can be caused by contaminated food or water. The infection cannot be treated. The symptoms, however, can. Be sure to increase your cat’s fluid intake if they have been diagnosed with crypto. It’s extremely difficult to prevent Cryptosporidiosis as the infection cannot be killed by disinfectants. It’s best to get your cat to a vet the moment they display symptoms of severe diarrhoea.