Coccidia Infection in Dogs
Definition of Coccidia
Coccidia are a group of internal parasites that most often live in the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract. They can also infect the liver and other organs. Coccidia parasites infect many domestic animals. Certain species of coccidia are extremely infectious to people, as well. These internal parasites cause intestinal inflammation (enteritis) in all species that they infect, although the course and severity of symptoms can vary quite a bit. Coccidiosis is an economically significant disease of sheep, cattle, pigs, poultry, rabbits and goats. It affects, but usually is less severe clinically, in fish, horses, dogs and cats.
In all species except fish, the disease caused by coccidia, known as coccidiosis, is caused by one of three general categories of organisms: Eimeria, Isospora and Cryptosporidium. Dogs are predominantly infected with Isospora canis, while cats tend to become infected with Isospora felis. Eimeria species are not known to parasitize dogs or cats. Cryptosporidium organisms are still being evaluated as the cause of rapid-onset, potentially fatal coccidiosis in very young puppies and kittens. Cryptosporidium are
The main symptom of coccidiosis in dogs is diarrhea, which typically is much worse in puppies than in older animals. It is also worse in young dogs living in dirty, damp, cold, unsanitary conditions, as well as in those that are concurrently affected by other diseases or disorders.In puppies and kittens, coccidia can cause a fairly severe form of diarrhea, which unfortunately may become life-threatening. Adult dogs and cats typically develop a much more mild
Dogs that are seen by a veterinarian for coccidial diarrhea – especially young puppies – often have normal results on their routine blood work and urinalysis, with the possible exception of showing the effects of dehydration. The best way to diagnose coccidiosis is to examine a fresh fecal sample for the presence of the oocyst form of the parasite. The veterinarian usually will mix a small amount of feces with either a sugar or salt
Mature dogs infected with coccidia usually do not require any special treatment due to the mild nature of their symptoms. Most cases of coccidiosis resolve spontaneously within a few weeks even without treatment; this is called a “self-limiting infection.” However, young, weak, sick dogs may need to be hospitalized, so that they can be given intravenous fluid replacement to counteract the dehydration caused by severe diarrhea. A number of oral and injectable medications are effective