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Trypanosomiasis in cats

Trypanosomiasis is one of the oldest and well known blood protozoan diseases affecting a wide variety of domestic and wild animals including felids. Trypanosoma evansi is the causative agent of trypanosomiasis in felids of this world.

Incidence of Trypanosomiasis

Though trypanosomiasis is worldwide in distribution Trypanosomiasis parasite infection is especially widespread in various felid groups including Tigers, lions, leopards, jungle cat and Jaguar. Many of these affected animals succumbed to death or recovered after appropriate therapy. Number of deaths due to trypanosomiasis is alarming among tigers than house cats.

What does trypanosomiasis look like?

A typical T.evansi is an extra cellular elongate, slender, spindle shaped hematozoan flagellate having a centrally placed nucleus, a terminal kinetoplast and an undulating membrane.

How is trypanosomiasis transmitted?

The disease which has a seasonal distribution is transmitted mechanically by Tabanus tropicus (a type of fly) . The hot and humid climate is most ideal for breeding of these flies and such the incidence is coincided with floods and enundations in tropical countries.

After a bite of the trypanosome infected animals, the flagellates remain in the alimentary tract of flies for several hours where they develop and multiply to ultimately migrate into salivary glands. The susceptible animals get readily infected through bite of infected flies.

Cats can get infection through ingestion of infected meat or beef, particularly when there is abrasion in oral mucosa. The recovered animals act as carriers and remain as a source of infection to other susceptible animals for several months. Transplacental transmission also being reported.

Clinical Signs

  • Dullness
  • Partial to complete anorexia
  • In coordination of hind limbs
  • Photophobia
  • Respiratory distress
  • Involuntary shaking of head
  • Unable to raise head
  • Lateral recumbence
  • Crawling on application of stimuli
  • Convulsions prior to death


  • Trypanosomiasis parasite infection can be readily diagnosed in stained blood smears in acute condition by demonstration of flagellates.
  • Biological test- In chronic cases or in low concentration of parasites, the blood can be centrifuges and Buffy coat can be injected into susceptible rodents (mice, guinea pig, etc)
  • Serology- Indirect FAT, passive hemagglutination test, ELISA etc.

Specimens to be Sent to lab for Diagnosis

  • Peripheral blood smear
  • Heparinized whole blood
  • Serum for serological tests

Trypanosomiasis Treatment

The drug of choice for prevention and treatment of trypanosomiasis is Quinapyramine methylsulfate-chloride (TRIQUIN). The powder measuring 2.5 Gms has to be reconstituted in 15 ml distilled water and injected subcutaneously @ 1ml/40 kg body weight on paw or base of tail. Immediately massage the area of injection in order to avoid ulcers at the point of injection.

Prevention and Control

Fly control measures should be advocated to prevent the occurrence of the trypanosomiasis parasite. Deployment of number of fly traps, coupled with improved management practices will control the vectors. Usage of TRIQUIN also being practiced as a prophylactic treatment for the control of trypanosomiasis.

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