What is Coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by a one-celled organism called a coccidian. Coccidia are sub-classified into a number of genera, and each genus has a number of species. Some six different genera of coccidian can infect dogs. They are microscopic parasites that spend part of their life cycle in the lining cells of the intestine. While most clinical infections in dogs are caused by the specieslsospora canis,.Crytosporidium parvumis another coccidian parasite that may cause diarrhea in some puppies.
How did my dog become infected?
Oocysts (immature coccidia) are passed in the stool of an infected dog. They are very resistant to environmental conditions and can survive for some time on the ground. Under the right conditions of temperature and humidity these oocysts “sporulate”. If the sporulated oocysts are ingested by a susceptible dog they will release “sporozoites” that invade the intestinal lining cells and set up cycles of infection in neighboring cells. Dogs may also be infected by eating a mouse that is infected with coccidia.
What kinds of problems are caused by Coccidiosis?
Most dogs that are infected with coccidian do not have diarrhea or other clinical signs. When the coccidia oocysts are found in the stool of a dog without diarrhea, they are generally considered a transient insignificant finding. However, in puppies and debilitated adult dogs, they may cause severe, watery diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal distress, and vomiting. In severe cases death may occur.
How is Coccidiosis Diagnosed?
Coccidiosis is diagnosed by performing a microscopic examination of a stool sample. Since the oocysts are much smaller than the egg of intestinal worms, a careful study must be made. Infection with some of the less common coccidial parasites is diagnosed with a blood test.
How is Coccidial Infection treated?
The most common drug used to treat coccidian is a sulfa-type antibiotic. It is given for 6 to 14 days. Other drugs are also used if diarrhea and dehydration occur. If the sulfa-type drug is not effective, other treatments are available. Re-infection of dogs is common so environmental disinfection is very important. The use of diluted chlorine bleach (1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon water) is effective to clean infected areas.
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