What is coccidiosis in cats?

Coccidia are little microscopic, single-celled protozoa that can infect cats. They are not really the same thing as a virus or bacteria. Coccidia live in the intestines and digestive system of the cats, and they are spread through the fecal matter of animals. As animals defecate on the ground, other animals come into contact with it. Cats are particularly susceptible because they groom themselves with their tongues - so if they step on a patch of ground that has them in it, they will likely lick it off later on. They also often get it by eating mice. Kittens can get it from their mothers, by being close to the feces. The result is a disease called coccidiosis.

   

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What are the symptoms?

In cats, it causes diarrhea. The stool is often highly liquid in consistency. You may also see blood in the stool, as they cause damage to the intestines. The cat may get dehydrated as a result of the diarrhea.

Is it serious?

Yes - a cat will get dehydrated from the diarrhea and may lose blood. It makes the pet very ill and susceptible to other infections, and sometimes they die if they get sick from something else at the same time. You need to take the pet to the vet, because it is easily treatable, but it can take a week for them to get over it.

What is the treatment?  

There are a couple of treatments. Antibiotics are often used, as well as coccidiostats, which are medicines designed to help the cat's immune system fight back specifically against coccidia. Keeping the cat hydrated is also very important. Albon is one of the most commonly used drugs against it.

Is it contagious to other pets or to people?

Both dogs and cats can get the same kind of coccidia - but people generally cannot get the feline / canine version. 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 cat has by doing a fecal test.

Why does it happen with kittens?

Kittens usually get it from their mothers, who expose them through their feces. There is a 13-day period from exposure to onset of the illness, so a kitten will usually show symptoms at the earliest when they are two weeks old. It can be a very serious illness for them - unlike their mother, the kitten has no immunity, and the protozoa will run rampant.

Sources and Links:

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

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

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

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