What are Coccidia?

coccidiosis

What is coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by one-celled organisms (protozoa) called coccidia. Coccidia are sub-classified into a number of genera, and each genus has a number of species.

“At least six different genera of coccidia can infect dogs.”

At least six different genera of coccidia can infect dogs. These microscopic parasites spend part of their life cycle in the lining cells of the intestine. Most infections are not associated with any detectable clinical signs. These  infections are called sub-clinical infections. The species Isospora canis  causes most clinical infections in dogs. Cryptosporidium parvum is another coccidian parasite that may cause diarrhea in some puppies.

 

canine coccidiosis   2009 Coccidia

How did my dog become infected with coccidia?

An infected dog passes oocysts (immature coccidia) in the feces. These oocysts are very resistant to a wide variety of environmental conditions and can survive for some time on the ground. Under the right conditions of temperature and humidity, these oocysts “sporulate” or become infective. If a susceptible dog ingests the sporulated oocysts, the oocysts will release  “sporozoites” that invade the intestinal lining cells and set up a cycle of infection in neighboring cells. Dogs may also be indirectly infected by eating a mouse that is infected with coccidia.

What kinds of problems are caused by coccidiosis?

Most dogs that are infected with coccidia do not have diarrhea or other clinical signs. When the coccidial oocysts are found in the stool of a dog without diarrhea, they are generally considered a transient, insignificant finding.

“In puppies and debilitated adult dogs, coccidiosis may cause severe, watery diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal distress, and vomiting.”

However, in puppies and debilitated adult dogs, coccidiosis may cause severe, watery diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal distress, and vomiting. In severe  cases, death may occur.

How is coccidiosis diagnosed?

Coccidiosis is diagnosed by performing a microscopic examination of a stool sample. Since the oocysts are much smaller than the eggs of intestinal worms, a careful fecal evaluation must be made. Infection with some of the less common coccidial parasites is diagnosed with a blood test.

How is the coccidial infection treated?

The most common drug used to eliminate coccidia is a sulfa-type
antibiotic. It is usually given for ten to fourteen days. In severe infections, it may be necessary to repeat the treatment. Other drugs may be required if diarrhea and dehydration occur. If the sulfa-type drug is not effective, other treatments are available. Re-infection of susceptible dogs is common so environmental disinfection is important. The use of diluted chlorine bleach [one cup (250 ml) of bleach mixed in one gallon (3.8 L) of water] is effective if the surfaces and premises
can be safely treated with it.

Are the coccidial parasites of my dog infectious to humans?coccidiosis Coccidia

“The most common coccidia found in dogs do not have any affect on humans.”

The most common coccidia found in dogs do not have any affect on humans. However, less common types of coccidia are potentially  infectious to humans. One parasite, called Cryptosporidium, may be carried by dogs or cats and may be transmitted to people. This parasite has also been found in the public water supply of some major cites. It poses a health risk for immunosuppressed humans such as AIDS patients, those taking immune suppressing drugs, cancer patients, or the
elderly.

Good hygiene and proper disposal of dog feces are important
in minimizing risk of transmission of all canine parasites to humans, or to other animals.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Dog Health Answers : Why Is My Dog Drinking So Much Water?

A dog may drink a lot of water due to a urinary tract infection, a kidney infection, a bladder infection, other kidney problems or dehydration due to excessive sodium in the diet. Find out the root cause of the behavior before finding the proper treatment with helpfulinformation from a practicing veterinarian in this free video on dog health. Expert: James Talbott Bio: Dr. James R. Talbott is a staff veterinarian at Belle Forest Animal Hospital and Kennel in Nashville, Tenn. Filmmaker: Dimitri LaBarge

Diarrhea in Pets

As a pet owner it is often distressing to have a sick or ailing pet. Diarrhea in your pet is one such ailment that can often cause discomfort for the owner as well as the pet by causing accidents around the house. Diarrhea is the passage of unformed, loose stools and may appear for many different reasons. This handout will review the causes of diarrhea, treatments for diarrhea and observations that will be helpful for your veterinarian to diagnose the problem.

Diarrhea occurs when digested food speeds through the digestive tract too quickly and forms loose, watery stools. It is also marked by the decreased absorption of water, electrolytes and other nutrients. The causes of diarrhea are wide ranging. Some animals experience mild diarrhea due to stress, allergies, change in food patterns, or stomach irritants. This stomach irritation can range from mild to severe and may be caused by some form of bacteria, virus, plant or chemical. It is important to remember that while diarrhea by itself is not a disease, it may be a symptom of a larger more complex problem.

Remember that variations in stools occur for many reasons. However, one of the concerning complications of prolonged diarrhea is dehydration. Observe your pet closely and if your pet has experienced diarrhea for two days, seems lethargic, refuses water or has other symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Before a treatment can be started, the cause of the diarrhea must be determined. There are many different tests that can be performed to determine the many causes of diarrhea. However, initially, a more generalized, cost effective and less invasive approach is often tried first. This approach calls for withholding food for 24 hours while encouraging water consumption. This allows the irritated stomach and bowels to calm down. Then gradually and in small portions, bland foods are offered to the animal. The foods most often recommended are white boiled rice, pasta, chicken broth and skinless chicken breasts. As the animals stools return to normal, then small portions of their normal diet may be gradually incorporated with the bland foods. If this generalized approach does not seem to be calming your pets diarrhea distress, then your veterinarian may perform more tests to determine if the diarrhea is a symptom of larger and more far reaching problems. Clinical workups may include blood work, stool samples, urine cultures and food trials. These tests will determine if the diarrhea is simply caused by a bacteria, virus or food allergy or if the distress is a symptom of larger issues, such as cancer.

In order to assist your veterinarian with the proper diagnosis, observe the following details about your pet:

  • How frequently is your pet defecating?
  • What are the consistency, smell and color of the stools?
  • Is your pet exhibiting any other symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting or weight loss?
  • Has there been any change to your pets normal routine, food or environment?
  • Does your pet have access to small objects that might have been swallowed?
  • Has your pet escaped your house/yard recently and had access to foreign objects?