Coccidia are parasites that can contribute to the infection of the gastrointestinal tract in dogs and other household pets and wildlife. They are host specific, meaning they cannot be spread among species (dogs cannot give it to cats and vice versa). There are several different species of the parasite that can affect animals. The infection associated with coccidia is typically minor and involves no symptoms. However, the disorder can be severe for baby animals and puppies with a weakened immune system.
The coccidian life cycle is a complex one. A dog or an intermediate host, such as a rodent, 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 dog then eats the intermediate host that is unknowingly carrying the developing bacteria, the coccidian can then complete their life cycle in the dog’s intestines. The bacteria progresses through several phases of division inside the intestinal cells. New oocycts are formed which are eliminated through the dog’s fecal matter.
Coccidia are most commonly seen in puppies and other animals that are less than one month old and those with impaired immune systems. The bacteria are common for both dog and cats, though because the disease is normally mild in nature, incidence and prevalence of the infection has not been well studied by scholars and veterinarians.
Signs and Symptoms
Most dogs that are healthy experience hardly any symptoms with a coccidian infection. If present, signs can include watery, bloody Dog Diarrhea, Dog Vomiting, and Dog Weight Loss. Death can occur only if symptoms are left untreated, especially in severely affected dogs.
Home Treatment Options
Many infections are mild and run their course within just a few days. Minimal care is needed for dogs that show little or no signs of coccidiosis, the medical term for the infection caused by the bacteria. If signs of Dog Dehydration become apparent or diarrhea persists, veterinarian care should be sought as soon as possible.
Professional and Medical Treatment
Medication can be given to help suppress the life cycle of the coccidia batcteria long enough for the dog’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 dogs that have rather 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 can occur accidentally. Basic cleaning strategies should be implemented at all times in professional dog kennels, as well as in your own homes including thoroughly washing and disinfecting your dog’s bedding, toys and living space, to avoid any unnecessary exposure to the bacteria.