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How to handle coccidiosis in dogs


Coccidiosis results from a one-celled organism being present, called coccidia.  Coccidia is many time confused with “worms” due to the fact that it also lives in the small intestines of house pets.  It is classified however as a protozoan,

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and not a worm.  Actually, it is very commonly diagnosed of all the protozoan diseases present in puppies and kittens and is hardly ever a problem for adult pets.


Often times pets that become infected with coccidia do not show any clinical signs of infection.  The most common and obvious clinical sign of infection is diarrhea. Coccidia infestation is the top cause of diarrhea in kittens.


If it happens that coccidia eggs (oocysts) are found in stool from an adult pet without signs of diarrhea, this is generally thought to be an insignificant finding. For the majority of situations treatment is not necessary. But in young and weakened animals, this can cause severe diarrhea, abdominal distress, dehydration, and also vomiting. In very severe cases, death can result.


The way pets become infected with coccidia is through ingesting oocysts which are passed in the feces of other infected pets. This can be a problem in places where many pets are housed together, in environments such as pet stores, breeding kennels, and puppy mills.


Oocysts are highly resistant to environmental conditions and also regular household disinfectants so maintenance of good sanitation is required to control reinfestation. Using diluted bleach can be very effective so long as the surface being cleaned can be safely treated. Daily stool collection is also recommended.


Coccidiosis is often diagnosed by examining at a sample of stool under with a microscope to look for the presence of oocysts. Usually the treatment for coccidiosis consists of using an oral medication which is given for two weeks or more. A visit to recheck fecal matter should be conducted in 2-3 weeks to guarantee that treatment has been effective.


The coccidia most often found in pets, Isospora spp., does not an effect on humans. There are nevertheless other, less common types of coccidia that can be potentially infectious for people. One parasite known as Cryptosporidium, can be carried by either dogs or cats and can be transmitted to people. This parasite can also be found in public water supplies in or around major cites. This can pose a health risk for immuno-suppressed people such as those suffering from AIDS, taking immune suppressing drugs, as well as cancer patients and the elderly.


It’s always important to practice good hygiene for pets and the proper disposal of pet feces. These practices are the best way to reduce the risk of transmission of any type of pet parasites either to humans or to other animals.




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