Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by a one-celled organism or protozoa called coccidia. Coccidia are not parasitic worms, they are microscopic parasites that live within cells of the intestinal lining. Because they live in the intestinal tract and commonly cause diarrhea, they are often confused with worms.
Signs & Symptoms of Coccidiosis in Dogs
Most pets that are infected with coccidia do not have diarrhea or any other clinical signs. When the eggs or oocysts are found in the stool of a pet without diarrhea, they are generally considered a transient, insignificant finding. However, in kittens, puppies and debilitated adult cats and dogs, they may cause severe, watery diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal distress, and vomiting. In severe cases, death may occur.
Causes of Coccidiosis in Dogs
Oocysts (immature coccidia) are passed in the feces of an infected cat or dog. These oocysts are very resistant to environmental conditions and can survive for some time on the ground. Under the right conditions of temperature and humidity, these oocysts “sporulate”. If the sporulated oocysts are ingested by a susceptible dog, they will release “sporozoites” that invade the intestinal lining cells and set up a cycle of infection in neighboring cells.
Diagnosis of Coccidiosis in Dogs
Diagnosis begins with a complete history and a physical exam of the dog. Your veterinarian will most likely do the following:
- Fecal Floatation - This test is used to determine the presence of parasite eggs in your dog’s stool. It involves taking a small fecal sample from your dog using a lubricated fecal loop. The feces are then put in a small container with a solution that will allow most of the fecal matter to sink and the parasite eggs to float. A slide is then made of the floating material and examined under a microscope.
- Send a blood sample to a lab for confirmation.
Treatment for Coccidiosis in Dogs
Coccidia can be very easy to treat and usually consists of a sulfa-based antibiotic. The antibiotic most commonly used is Albon and comes in tablet and liquid form.
Prevention of Coccidiosis in Dogs
One thing to remember is that no matter what you do sometimes there are diseases your dog will contract. If you notice any change in your dog’s health, get them to your vet soon as possible. Sometimes diseases that are very treatable can be fatal if left untreated.