Symptoms of Coccidia in Dogs

One-celled protozoa called coccidia invade your dog’s intestines, causing coccidiosis, resulting in symptoms that may be mild to life-threatening. Opportunistic, internal parasites, coccidia thrive primarily in young puppies weakened by other infections and living in an unsanitary or stressful environment. However, any dog can become ill or remain a carrier.

Coccidia Spreads through Exposure to Infected Feces

Dogs and puppies contract coccidian when they consume infected feces, which contains “oocysts”, or coccidian eggs. In crowded living conditions, coccidian contamination may be substantial.

Most adult dogs possess sufficient immunity to suppress symptoms of coccidiosis, but they may spread the parasite by excreting it in their feces. In fact, newborn puppies can contract coccidia by ingesting their mother’s excrement. Up to half of all young puppies harbor the coccidian parasite.

Puppies may also contract the parasite from exposure to feces of other infected puppies and kittens living in group facilities. Puppies whose system is under attack by other parasites—like roundworms—are most likely to develop a full-scale coccidian infection. In addition, the stress of moving to a new home may cause an infection to manifest itself.

Finally, puppies and dogs alike may contract coccidia by ingesting small animals’ infected with the parasite or their excrement.

Diarrhea and Dehydration Signal a Coccidian Infection

The following symptoms signal a coccidian infection:

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Mucous-tinged diarrhea
  • Blood-tinged diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Death

Diagnosis Depends on Results of a Fecal Test

If a coccidian infection is suspected, the vet will analyze a fecal sample under the microscope, checking for the presence of coccidian eggs. Because symptoms of coccidiosis may not be apparent or severe at first, your vet may opt to test multiple fecal samples to arrive at a conclusive diagnosis.

Treatment Includes Fluids, Anti-Protozoa Medications and Antibiotics

Coccidia may or may not cause a compromised health status in canines, so veterinarians usually reserve treatment for pets exhibiting clinical symptoms. Treatment for coccidia may include the following:

  • Administering fluids for dehydration
  • Medications to eradicate other parasitic infections stressing the puppy’s body
  • Anti-protozoa medication like ampolium and furozolidin
  • Sulfa-based medications, including Albon Rx, Bactrovet Rx, Ditrim Rx, Tribrissen Rx, Bactrim RX

Prevent Coccidiosis by Taking Strict Sanitation Measures

Puppies may contract coccidia parasites after they are exposed to infected feces. Once puppies have been determined to be infected with coccidia, the first step for owners is to isolate them from other animals.

  • Here are additional prevention measures:
  • Bagging, removing and, preferably, incinerating infected feces
  • Thoroughly and consistently disinfecting a puppy’s living quarters with ammonia
  • Steam-cleaning furniture and possessions
  • Providing clean drinking water and uncontaminated food
  • Preventing access of flies, roaches, rodents and small animals to a puppy’s living quarters
  • Reducing stressful conditions in a puppy’s daily life

Remain diligent in the prevention, detection and treatment of coccidiosis. The health of your dog, as well as that of other pets, may depend on such actions.