Diagnosing Coccidiosis in Dogs

Coccidiosis is an intestinal infection caused by coccidia, which are small parasites. Coccidiosis in dogs is caused by Isospora canis, a coccidian parasite that will cause intestinal uneasiness and diarrhea. Puppies, elderly dogs and dogs with a weaker immune system are more at risk when infected with the parasite; healthy dogs with coccidiosis may be easily treated and the parasites are not a major health treat. However, diagnosing coccidiosis is important for the overall health of your dog.

Symptoms of Canine Coccidiosis

Dogs with coccidiosis are affected by an intestinal parasite. The parasite is transmitted through feces or through the ingestion of a smaller animal (i.e. mouse or rabbit) that carries the parasite. After the incubation period, which may last between 10 to 14 days, the pet will display symptoms such as:

  • Severe diarrhea; the dog will defecate in unusual places, as he cannot control it
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Vomiting, in severe cases
  • Dehydration, due to vomiting and diarrhea
  • Swollen and painful abdomen
  • Weight loss, if the diarrhea and vomiting persists
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Lack of activity

These symptoms may signal other problems such as poisoning, so a veterinarian check-up is necessary to confirm the diagnosis. The parasites may be eliminated with a dosage of antibiotics.

In rare cases and only if the dog’s immune system is weakened, the disease may be fatal.

Diagnosing Coccidiosis

For a proper diagnosis of coccidiosis, the vet needs to have a fecal sample from the infected dog. The coccidia parasites are present in the stool, but are difficult to spot, due to their microscopic size. The parasites are not visible to the naked eye.

Treating Coccidiosis

Typically, coccidiosis is treated with sulfonamides, which are antibiotics that will deal with the parasites that are located in the dog’s intestine.

The most common sulfonamides used for the Isospora canis are Albon or Bactrovet. These drugs should be taken for 10 to 14 days. These drugs will not kill the parasites, but will unable them to multiply and in time, the dog will eliminate the parasites.

The dog must be symptom-free for at least 2 days before discontinuing the medication.

In case the dog is severely dehydrated, intravenous fluids must be administrated.

Death may occur in weak dogs and is typically a consequence of severe dehydration.

Give your dog a thorough bath to get rid of the possible parasites and fecal matter to prevent re-infection.

How to Prevent Coccidiosis

You may prevent the contracting of coccidiosis by maintaining your house clean and reduce your dog’s exposure to possible infected feces. Pay attention to what your dog ingests and train him not to eat feces.

If you have a more pets and one is infected with the coccidia parasite, separate him from the others. The Isospora cysts may survive in a suitable environment for several months and even for a year. Chemicals may destroy these cysts.