Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is an infection caused by single-celled parasites living in the intestinal tracts of various animals. These parasites, called coccidia, are common in both dogs and cats, but they typically cause disease only in very young animals or pets with compromised immune systems. Most coccidia are host specific. This means that each parasite species can infect only one host species, so coccidia that infect cats would be harmless to dogs. Diagnosis of this pet health problem is made by examining a fecal sample for eggs. Experienced veterinarians and technicians can easily recognize these eggs and can often determine the species of coccidia causing the infection. 

Coccidiosis

How it Affects your pet

Dogs and cats contract coccidia by ingesting soil or grass contaminated with eggs or ingesting small animals, like mice, infected with the parasites. Both canine-specific and feline-specific species of coccidia have complicated life cycles. Once a pet ingests infective eggs, called oocysts, the parasites begin to reproduce in the small and large intestines. Some parasites migrate to other tissues to form cysts, and others remain in the intestines to produce oocysts. These oocysts are shed in the feces. After spending some time in the environment or inside an intermediate host, the oocysts become infective to other dogs or cats. Most infected pet animals show no signs of being infected with coccidia, and their immune systems clear the parasites with no treatment. In adult animals with severe infections, young pets and debilitated animals, however, coccidia can cause severe intestinal inflammation. Although uncommon, it is possible for animals to die from severe coccidiosis.

Common symptoms

Possible signs on pets of this disease include the following: Diarrhea, Weight loss, Failure to thrive in puppies and kittens, Poor coat condition, Blood in the stool and Dehydration.

Treatments

In many cases, no treatment is required for this pet health problem. Very sick animals and young pets, however, require anti-parasitic drugs and supportive care. The aims of supportive care are to alleviate symptoms, stabilize the sick pet and relieve dehydration. Most pets are very responsive to treatment and recover quickly from coccidia infection. Whenever possible, it is better to prevent coccidiosis than to treat it. The best ways to prevent coccidiosis are to practice appropriate sanitation, prevent dogs and cats from hunting small animals and treat all animals in contact with kittens and puppies for the parasites. 

Breeds Affected

Coccidiosis is not associated with any specific canine or feline breeds. This pet health condition is common in puppies and kittens of all breeds.

Coccidiosis Affects

  • Dogs and cats contract coccidia by ingesting soil or grass contaminated with eggs or ingesting small animals, like mice, infected with the parasites. Both canine-specific and feline-specific species of coccidia have complicated life cycles. Once a pet ingests infective eggs, called oocysts, the parasites begin to reproduce in the small and large intestines. Some parasites migrate to other tissues to form cysts, and others remain in the intestines to produce oocysts. These oocysts are shed in the feces. After spending some time in the environment or inside an intermediate host, the oocysts become infective to other dogs or cats. Most infected pet animals show no signs of being infected with coccidia, and their immune systems clear the parasites with no treatment. In adult animals with severe infections, young pets and debilitated animals, however, coccidia can cause severe intestinal inflammation. Although uncommon, it is possible for animals to die from severe coccidiosis.

Similar conditions

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