Diagnosing Coccidia in Cats

Feline coccidia are infectious organisms that cause intestinal tract infections in cats, commonly known as coccidiosis. Kittens are most susceptible to coccidia infections, due to lower immune system functioning. The infection is acquired from the environment through contaminated sources. Since kittens are most susceptible, it’s necessary to seek medical help if the symptoms appear.

Contracting Coccidiosis

The most common source of transmission is through infected pet feces. Kittens under 6 weeks of age are likely to ingest coccidia from their mother's stool if they come in contact with it. Pets may also become infected with coccidiosis if they ingest a rodent that carries coccidia organisms. Adult felines that carry coccidia don’t exhibit symptoms of infection, since the immune system is strong enough to suppress the organisms. However, infected adult pets release coccidia cysts through their feces, which in turn infect other pets.

Symptoms of Coccidiosis:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stools
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration

Coccidiosis in Adult Pets

Among all the symptoms of coccidiosis, diarrhea is the most common, since the organisms invade the pet’s intestinal cells. Kittens that experience symptoms of coccidiosis should be diagnosed and treated promptly, as dehydration can often lead to death. Adult pets with low immune systems should also be tested if any symptoms exist, since coccidia can become active if the pet is suffering from an underlying condition.

Diagnosis of Feline Coccidiosis

The vet will conduct a physical examination and consider the symptoms of sickness. A fecal exam will enable the vet to determine the presence of coccidia cysts, to confirm the disease. A fecal examination is a microscopic analysis of the feces to detect parasite infections and the presence of bacteria or abnormalities. Blood tests will be performed to rule out other causes of diarrhea or infection. A negative fecal report doesn’t indicate the absence of coccidiosis, so retesting may be necessary.

Treatment of Feline Coccidiosis

Cats suffering from coccidiosis are treated with medication that prevents the growth of coccidia in the intestines. The medication doesn’t eliminate coccidia protozoa, but helps the body to develop immunity towards the infection. Kittens that are dehydrated may require IV fluids to help them recuperate. The most commonly prescribed medication for feline coccidiosis is sulfadimethoxine and trimethoprim-sulfadiazine.

Prevention of Feline Coccidiosis

Since the most common source of infection is through contaminated feces, it’s important to dispose of feces in an appropriate manner. Newly acquired kittens should also be monitored for signs of illness and kept away from sick pets living in the same household. It’s best to clean and disinfect the home and pet bedding frequently. Pet owners should conduct routine fecal exams in order to determine parasite infection in both kittens and older cats. Research shows an increase in susceptibility to coccidiosis when pets suffer from stress or trauma. Cats should also be prevented from roaming outdoors and coming in contact with rodents.

Feline coccidiosis is a treatable condition. Adequate cleanliness and routine vet checks can prevent illness, and help to maintain optimal pet health.