What is coccidiosis in dogs?

Coccidia are tiny, one-celled organisms called protozoa that infect animals. They are different from bacteria or a virus, and can live on their own in the environment. They infest the digestive system of dogs, concentrating in the intestines, and they get spread to other animals through the stool, which will contain lots of them. This puts them into the ground and soil where other animals can come into contact with them.

   

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How do dogs get it?

They can get it through contact with the feces of infected animals. Puppies are at greatest risk of this, and they often get it from their mother. Many dogs build up immunity over time, so that while they are carriers, they do not suffer any problems from it. However, puppies do not have this immunity - and when they're born, they will be in close quarters with the mother, who may have it with no problems from it. The puppies then get it and suffer severe effects because of their weaker immune systems. Puppies will generally start showing effects at the earliest at two weeks of age, because the time from exposure to illness is around 13 days.

Finally, dogs could also get it by eating a mouse or by eating some bugs that carry it.

What are the symptoms?

They mainly cause digestive problems, and the big one of these is diarrhea. It often has blood in it. Other digestive issues such as loss of appetite or frequent vomiting can happen as well, and puppies sometimes die from it. 

Is it serious?

Yes - it will make the dog very ill and dehydrated from the diarrhea. Some pets die from it if they already have or contract another illness while they are sick with coccidia. You want to take them to the vet - it is an easily treatable problem with drugs, but it can take about a week for them to get over it.

What is the treatment?  

Antibiotics are the main treatment, but the use of IV fluids to keep the dog hydrated is another potential option. Drugs such as Albon and Tribrissen can also stop the coccidia from reproducing. You will also need to keep any infected puppies away from other dogs or cats, and you need to take precautions to keep a litter away from the feces of its mother. That means wiping her rear, or removing the puppies from constant contact if they are old enough.

Are coccidia contagious to other pets or to people?

Both dogs and cats can get the same kind of protozoa - but people generally cannot get it from them. So if one of your pets has it, all of them might get it. There are a couple of kinds that can be transmitted to people - but they are pretty rare and have a low transmission rate. Your vet will be able to identify specifically what kind your pet has by doing a fecal test.

Sources and Links:

http://www.swiftwaterfarms.com/swiftwater/p21Coccidia.htm

http://www.marvistavet.com/html/body_coccidia.html

http://www.sniksnak.com/doghealth/coccidiosis.html

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