Coccidiosis in Cats

Coccidiosis is a health condition that affects the intestinal tract of cats and dogs. This health problem is common in kittens that are less than 6 months old. However, adult cats may also have this disease if their immune system has been suppressed or if they are stressed. Coccidiosis often leads to diarrhea, even though it may have even more serious complications, such as dehydration, bloody diarrhea and death.

Causes of Feline Coccidiosis

The disease is caused by coccidia, which are one-celled organisms that reproduce in the digestive tract. Isopora felis and Isopora rivolta are the types of coccidian that affect the cats most often. Kittens do not have these organisms in their digestive tract at birth, but they are exposed to coccidia if they ingest the feces of their mother. Immunity to these organisms is developed in time, so young kittens are predisposed to coccidiosis.

It takes around 13 days from the exposure time to the onset of the disease, time in which coccidia get divided in the intestine. Keep in mind that an infected kitten is able to transmit the disease to other cats and dogs, so it should be isolated once diagnosed with this health problem. Adult cats may carry coccidia in their intestines, but since they are immune to these organisms, they will not develop the disease.  

Signs and Symptoms of Coccidiosis

As mentioned before, coccidiosis leads to diarrhea, so this is the primary sign of the disease. In some situations, diarrhea is mild, but its severity is proportional with the level of infection. In the advanced cases there may be mucous or blood in the diarrhea. Other symptoms of coccidiosis include:

  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

If left untreated, coccidiosis may cause the death of the kitten. You are highly recommended to talk to a veterinarian as soon as any of the above symptoms is noticed. In order to confirm the diagnosis, veterinarians perform a fecal exam under the microscope.

Treatment of Coccidiosis in Cats

As stress is involved in the development of this health condition, one of the first measures that need to be taken is to reduce the stress levels when changing the owner, for example. Some of the drugs that can effectively treat coccidioasis include trimethoprim-sulfadiazine (Tribrissen) and sulfadimethoxine (Albon).

These drugs do not destroy the parasites, but rather prevent coccidia from reproducing. At this point, the immunity of the kitten gets developed and the parasites are eliminated from the organism. The duration of the treatment ranges between one and three weeks, depending on the level of infection and on the severity of the symptoms.

Prevention and Control of Feline Coccidiosis

The drugs mentioned above can also be successfully used in the prevention of the disease. An additional preventive measure is to keep kittens away from animals that have been diagnosed with coccidiosis. In order to make sure that kittens do not get the parasites from their mother, the feces should be removed immediately. In order to prevent and control dehydration, one of the main symptoms of coccidiosis, clean water should always be available to the kittens. Some of the measures that cat owners can take to destroy coccidian include:

  • 10 percent ammonia solution  
  • Immersion in boiling water
  • Incineration of the feces
  • Steam cleaning

Disinfectants are not so effecting against these parasites, so it is better to rely on the methods listed above. Insect and rodent control is also very important, as both of these are able to carry coccidia.