Dog Parasite - Coccidia


Overview - Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract of animals, caused by coccidian protozoa. The disease spreads from one animal to another by contact with infected feces, or ingestion of infected tissue.

Parasite target - Small and large intestinal epithelium

Symptoms - Diarrhea, which may become bloody in severe cases, is the primary symptom. Most animals infected with coccidia are asymptomatic the patient does not experience symptoms however, young or immuno-compromised animals may suffer severe symptoms, including death.

Symptoms in young dogs are universal: at some point around 2-3 months of age, an infected dog develops persistently loose stools. This diarrhea proceeds to stool containing liquid, thick mucus, and light colored fecal matter. As the infection progresses, spots of blood may become apparent in the stool, and sudden bowel movements may surprise both dog and owner alike. Coccidia infection is so common that any pup under 4 months old with these symptoms can almost surely be assumed to have coccidiosis.

Treatment - Fortunately, the treatment is inexpensive, extremely effective, and routine. A veterinarian can easily diagnose the disease through low-powered microscopic examination of an affected dog's feces, which usually will be replete with oocysts. One of many easily administered and inexpensive drugs will be prescribed, and, in the course of just a few days, an infection will be eliminated or perhaps reduced to such a level that the dog's immune system can make its own progress against the infection. Even when an infection has progressed sufficiently that blood is present in feces, permanent damage to the gastrointestinal system is rare, and the dog will most likely make a complete recovery without long-lasting negative effects.

The most commonly used medications are sulfonamide antiseptics, such as sulfadimethoxine (Albon Rx, Bactrovet Rx) given at 55mg/kg of body weight initially and then 27.5mg/kg per day for 4 to 7 days. The medication should be given until two days after symptoms of illness have disappeared.

** medication information from vetinfo4dogs

Prevention - General cleanliness does not ensure that infections will not occur, but removal of contaminated stool reduces the potential for infection. The oocysts are supposed to be pretty resistant to most disinfectants and things like steam cleaning or flame guns may be necessary to actually kill the oocysts, which is impractical for most situations.  Keeping access to mice down (especially for cats) is also a good idea.