Coccidiosis in dogs

Coccidiosis in dogs

What is Coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is a dog diseased that can be caused by a vast array of coccidian protozoa. All coccidian protozoa are microscopic, single-celled parasites capable of forming spores. They belong to the apicomplexan class Conoidasida, and need to infest animal cells in order to live and reproduce. The major cause of Coccidiosis in dogs is Isospora species, such as Isospora. canis, Isospora burrowsi, Isospora ohioensis, and Isospora neorivolta which are all species specific and incapable of causing infection in humans.

Coccidian protozoa normally settle down in the intestinal tract of the dog from where it can spread to other dogs via contaminated faeces. Dogs can also contract Coccidiosis by eating infected tissues.

Puppy with Coccidiosis

Most dogs infected with Coccidian protozoa show no signs of ill health since their immune systems is strong enough to handle the parasite. A majority of the dogs that are brought to the vet are therefore puppies, since young puppies have not developed a strong enough immune system yet. Puppies suffering from Coccidiosis have almost always been infected via their mother’s faeces. Their immature immune system – often combined with the stress of being transferred to new owners, leaving their mother and siblings, and perhaps having to travel a long way – makes it possible for the parasites to cause a full blown Coccidiosis infection.

Coccidiosis symptoms in dogs

As mentioned above, a dog can be infected with Coccidian protozoa and excrete cysts in its faeces without showing any symptoms of Coccidiosis. When the cysts enter a very young or immuno-compromised dog, the parasites can however cause serious problems.

Puppies infected with Coccidian protozoa often start showing symptoms when they are around 2-3 months old. The initial sign is often loose stools. Over time, a puppy suffering from Coccidiosis can develop diarrhoea and its faeces can contain thick mucus, liquid and/or be very light in colour. If the Coccidiosis infection becomes even more severe, blood might be seen in the dog’s faeces. Sudden bowel movements can make it impossible for the dog to stay house broken.

If Coccidiosis is not treated the symptoms will vanish from many dogs (but they can still transmit the disease to others), but it can also cause permanent damage and even death so taking your dog to the vet is strongly recommended if your dog starts showing symptoms of Coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is very common.

Coccidiosis treatment for dogs

Coccidiosis is very common problem, especially among puppies, but there is fortunately a wide range of effective and inexpensive treatments available for Coccidiosis in dogs. Most drugs will have effect with just a few days. Even if the Coccidiosis infection has progressed to a point where blood can be seen in the dog’s faeces, prompt treatment can prevent permanent gastrointestinal damage.

One of the most popular Coccidiosis treatments for dogs is drugs belonging to the sulphonamide family. It should however be noted that some dogs can suffer from tear gland damage if treated with sulphonamide. Some vets will measure tear production before and during use of sulphonamide for the treatment of dogs with Coccidiosis. Other vets prefer to use Coccidiosis treatments without sulphonamide.