Shelter kittens with tritrichomonas foetus.

Question: 

Our rescue organization in the past 2 years has seen several litters of kittens all with tritrichomonas foetus. These kittens have come from 3 main geographic areas within our state (California). Is there a suggestion at this point, with what is known about T. foetus, as to how to handle this in a foster home situation? Since we don't know how long this lives in the environment, it's hard to know about putting more kittens into a foster home that has seen this. It becomes difficult to handle since we can't adopt out kittens that have chronic or off and on diarrhea. What is the response rate to ronidazole and the "cure" rate?

Answer: 

Unfortunately, there is very little information available about this parasite in cats, so it is difficult to predict the best way to handle it in a shelter or foster-type situation. We do know, however, that high population density (i.e. crowding) is an important risk factor for Tritrichomonas in cats. Because of this, foster homes should carefully limit the number of cats they house at any one time.
In contrast to other pathogens (such as ringworm and panleukopenia), the Tritrichomonas organism does not survive very well in the environment. However, in a foster home that has had several cases of Tritrichomonas, it would probably be best to practice an "all-in/all-out" flow of kittens. By this I mean that foster homes should be sure to adopt out all kittens, and thoroughly clean after the last one leaves, before taking in another foster litter, rather than constantly having at least some kittens, with overlap (i.e. exposure) between litters. Most likely there is not a specified amount of time that must be "waited out" before bringing in the next litter, just enough time to allow a thorough cleaning.
How was the diagnosis of Tritrichomonas made in these kittens? Were any of them treated with ronidazole, and if so, was treatment successful or not? There is only limited data available, but experts believe that ronidazole is the only drug that is effective for treatment of Tritrichomonas in cats. The required dose is quite high, however. Your veterinarian is welcome to contact us if he or she has questions about using Ronidazole.
It is not uncommon for cats to be concurrently infected with several pathogens, such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Coccidia, and this can sometimes interfere with treatment success. So, if treatment is unsuccessful, be sure that the vet you are working with has screened for various pathogens. Again, if your vet has questions, we would be happy to speak to him or her.