Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by a single-celled organism (a protozoa) known as coccidia.
Coccidia can be sub-classified into a number of genera (groups), and each genus has a number of species.
It’s been discovered that at least four different genera of coccidia can infect dogs. Some of the common coccidia includes; Isospora canis, I. neorivolta, I. ohioensis, and I. burrowsi, and these micro-parasitic organisms spend the better part of their life cycle in the lining intestinal cells.
Most infections found in dogs are not connected with any detectable clinical symptoms, despite the damaging cells. Infections without clinical signs are referred to as sub-clinical infections.
I. Canis is the species that commonly causes clinical infections in canines, however, another coccidian parasite known as cryptosporidium parvum can also also cause the infection, especially in puppies.
Wonder how your dog got infected with coccidia?
Most dogs that get infected with coccidia get it by ingesting oocysts that are found in dog feces. They also get it from being exposed to soil contaminated with feces containing oocysts (immature coccidia).
Oocysts have strong resistance to a wide varieties of environmental factors and can live for some time on ground outside a host after infected dogs pass them out.
Dogs can also be infected indirectly when they eat mouse that have coccidia. Oocysts can become infective or “sporulate” when exposed to the right conditions of humidity and temperature.
When a dog that’s susceptible ingests the sporulated oocysts,’sporozoites’ would be released and it would attack the intestinal lining cells and cause a cycle of infection in neighboring cells.
What are the types of problems caused by coccidiosis?
The most common noticeable sign of coccidiosis in dogs is diarrhea, however, not all infected dogs with coccidia show any clinical signs.
It is considered insignificant or transient when coccidial oocysts are discovered in the stool of dogs without diarrhea.
Other signs in debilitated adult dogs and puppies apart from extreme watery diarrhea, may include dehydration, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and in worst cases, death.
How coccidiosis is diagnosed?
Coccidiosis can be diagnosed having your vet run a fecal flotation test to look for oocysts using a microscope. A thorough evaluation is necessary since the oocysts parasites are much more smaller than the eggs of intestinal worms.
It is easier to detect coccidiosis using zinc sulfate floating solutions. Blood tests can also be used to diagnose less common coccidial parasites.
How coccidiosis is treated?
Sulfa-type antibiotic called sulfadimethoxine, which is usually given for 5-25 days may be prescribed by your veterinarian. Continuous treatment may be required if the infection is severe. Treatments and medications such as IV fluids may also be needed if your dog is dehydrated and has chronic diarrhea.
Other treatments may need to be administered if the sulfa-type antibiotics isn’t effective. It’s best to discuss the best treatment options with your veterinarian.
Depending on how severe the infection is, some dogs may not need much medical attention. It is not uncommon for susceptible dogs to get reinfected, so it is very vital that the environment is disinfected, especially since oocysts have strong resistance to disinfectants and environmental conditions.
Diluted chlorine bleach can be used to effectively disinfect affected surroundings. Ensure the bleach used isn’t so strong that it damages surface areas of materials or environments. So it’s best to test clean with small amount before cleaning fully.
Oocysts can also be eradicated by steam cleaning. Remove any fecal matter as quickly as possible so reinfection doesn’t occur.
Can the coccidial parasites infect me and my family?
Humans are not affected by the most common species of coccidia. Nevertheless, humans cans potentially be infected by common species of coccidia. Most especially, the species known as Cryptosporidium may be transmitted to humans.
Cryptosporidium which may affect both cats and dogs, has also been discovered in public water supply in some major cities.
Immunosuppressed people have a higher risk of getting infected. Individuals with HIV, cancer patients and the elderly stand a higher risk of getting infected with coccidia.
Good personal hygiene and proper disposal of your dog poop are very vital in reducing the risk of transmitting canine parasites to other animals and humans.
Have you treated coccidiosis in your dog? How did you go about it? Please share with us in the comments below.