Tritrichomonas foetus (TF) is an important cause of feline diarrhea and infects up to 30% of American purebred cats. Although TF exists worldwide, feline TF has not yet been reported in Australia and many veterinarians do not specifically test cats for TF. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of TF and other enteric parasites in a sample of Australian cats to help guide fecal testing.
Fresh voided fecal specimens were collected from 84 cats from 30 catteries (median 2, range 1-10 specimens per cattery) and 52 shelter cats within 5 Australian states. Where possible, fecal consistency was recorded and cat owners completed a questionnaire. Fecal examinations performed in most cats included concentration methods (65 cattery and 41 shelter cats), Giardia antigen detection via ELISA (65 cattery and 40 shelter cats), culture in In PouchTM TF medium (49 cattery and 52 shelter cats) and PCR amplification of TF rRNA genes using specific primers (84 cattery and 52 shelter cats).
Prevalence of TF, Giardia sp, Coccidia and nematodes for cattery cats (and catteries) were 1.2(3.3)%, 9.2(18.2)%, 10.8(25.9)% and 1.5(3.7)% respectively. Prevalence of TF, Giardia sp., Coccidia and nematodes for shelter cats were 0, 10%, 9.8% and 3.8% respectively. Giardia sp. were mostly identified by ELISA testing, while Coccidia and nematodes were detected by faecal concentration methods. Only 1 kitten from an Ocicat cattery in Victoria was identified with TF. This kitten was in poor body condition, had diarrhea on physical examination and was co-infected with Giardia sp. The diagnosis of TF was made via culture and PCR and confirmed by molecular sequencing of PCR amplicons. Subsequently, fecal specimens obtained from 9 other cats within this cattery also tested positive for TF (9 via culture, 8 via PCR). Most breeders denied a history of diarrhea in their catteries, although unformed, liquid feces were documented at the time of stool collection in 7.5% of purebred cats from 20% of the catteries. Of the shelter cats, only 5.8% of fecal samples were noted to be liquid or unformed at the time of collection.
These results are the first to identify TF infection in an Australian cattery. Although the prevalence of feline TF appears to be low in Australia at this time, veterinarians should consider TF infection in cats with diarrhea where other causes are not identified. These results also indicate that Coccidia and Giardia sp. commonly infect Australian cats.