Coccidia are parasites that can contribute to infection of the gastrointestinal tract in cats and other household pets. They are host specific, meaning they cannot be spread among species (cats cannot give it to dogs and vice versa). There are several different species of the parasite that can affect cats and other animals. The infection associated with coccidia is typically minor and involves no symptoms. However, the disorder can be severe for baby animals and kittens that have a weak or otherwise compromised immune system.
The coccidian life cycle is a complex one. A dog, cat, or an intermediate host, for example a mouse or other type of small rodent or mammal, ingests the parasite in the oocyst stage, when it is most stable in the environment. The bacteria become partially developed in the body. If a cat should then eat the intermediate host that is carrying the developing bacteria, the coccidian can then complete their life cycle in the cat’s intestines. The bacteria progresses through several phases of division inside the intestinal cells. New oocycts are formed which are eliminated through the cat’s fecal matter.
Diagnosis of the Parasite
Coccidia are most commonly seen in cats and other animals that are less than one month of age, as well as with those that have an impaired immune system. The bacteria are quite common amongst cats, though because the disease is normally mild in nature, incidence and prevalence of the infection has not been well studied by veterinarians and scholars alike.
Signs and Symptoms of Coccidia
Most healthy cats will experience Coccidia infection without experiencing hardly any symptoms at all. If they are present, however, such signs can include watery, bloody Cat Diarrhea, Cat Vomiting, and can also lead to Cat Loss of Weight. Death can occur if such symptoms are left untreated, especially in cats that have a severe infection.
Many infections are mild and run their course within a few days. Minimal care is needed for cats and kittens that show little or no signs of coccidiosis, the medical term for the infection caused by the bacteria. If signs of Cat Dehydration become apparent or diarrhea persists, veterinarian care should be sought as soon as possible.
Medication can be given to help suppress the life cycle of the coccidia batcteria long enough for the cat’s immune system to eliminate the parasite. Sulfadimethoxine is the most common drug for this treatment. For this type of treatment to work, the immune system must be functioning properly. Ponazuril is an alternative drug that can be given to cats with weak immune systems. This medication is designed to directly kill the bacteria itself.
Coccidia is often found in unhealthy conditions where the possibility for fecal-oral contamination is evident. Basic cleaning strategies should be implemented at all times in professional catteries, as well as in your own home and your cat’s bedding and other belongings, to avoid exposure to the bacteria.