Coccidiosis in Dogs

Coccidiosis is a common canine disease and affects puppies more frequently. The infection is caused by a Coccidia organism known as Isospora Canis, which is a parasite that will be lodged in the dog’s intestinal tract. The parasite is microscopic and is shed in the feces, which can contaminate other pets if ingested.

Means of Transmission

The Coccidia organism is contagious and may be transmitted through contact or ingestion of infested feces. The infection is contagious to felines as well and conversely, the dog can catch the infection from cats as well. Puppies under 6 months old are more exposed to this infection, as they haven’t built up immunity for the parasite. Dogs with a weaker immune system may also be more exposed to the infection.

Some dogs may carry the parasites and won’t actually be affected by the infection and show no symptoms. However, these pets need to be treated, so that they won’t infect other dogs.

Causes of Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is a parasitic infection that may be caused by several types of coccidia organisms. In canines, the most frequently met parasite is the Isospora Canis.

Symptoms of Coccidiosis in Dogs

The incubation period of the parasite is around 2 weeks, so symptoms will not be noticeable during this time. After the incubation period, the dog may display symptoms such as:

  • Chronic diarrhea, which often leads to dehydration
  • Blood and mucus in the stool
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Anemia and weight loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Seizures, but only when the infection is in an advanced stage

These symptoms are not specific for coccidiosis and may also occur in dogs that have other parasitic infections or gastrointestinal upset or even stomach or intestinal cancer.

Diagnosing Coccidiosis in Dogs

A stool sample may suffice for a clear diagnosis. The parasites are microscopic, but are typically shed in every stool. It may happen that the feces won’t contain coccidia eggs, so the vet will repeat the test.

However, the vet will need to rule out other parasitic infections that cause similar symptoms.

Dog Coccidiosis Treatment Options

Coccidiosis can be treated in dogs. If detected in an advanced stage, it may be deadly, especially in puppies or dogs with a weak immune system.

The treatment typically consists of a sulfa based antibiotic that will stop the development cycle of the coccidia parasites. Albon or Tribissen are the typical choices when it comes to treating coccidiosis. The treatment is prescribed for several weeks, to make sure that all the parasites and eggs are shed. In some cases, the vet may choose to administer several courses of treatment. Sulfa based antibiotics are not recommended in pregnant or lactating dogs, as the drugs can cause birth defects.

IV fluids and hospitalization will be required for puppies in critical condition or if the infection is advanced. Natural remedies can also be used to speed up the recovery time and re-establish the balance in the intestinal tract.