What is coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by a one-celled
organism (protozoa) called coccidia. Coccidia are sub-classified
into a number of genera, and each genus has a number of species.
Some six different genera of coccidia can infect dogs. They are
microscopic parasites that spend part of their life cycle in the
lining cells of the intestine. Most infections are not associated
with any detectable clinical signs (they are sub-clinical). Most
clinical infections in dogs are caused by the species Isospora
canis. Cryptosporidium parvum is another
coccidian parasite that may cause diarrhea in some puppies.
did my dog become infected with coccidia?
(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 indirectly infected
by eating a mouse that is infected with coccidia.
kinds of problems are caused by coccidiosis?
Most dogs that are infected with coccidia 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.
is coccidiosis diagnosed?
is diagnosed by performing a microscopic examination of a stool
sample. Since the oocysts are much smaller than the eggs of
intestinal worms, a careful study must be made. Infection with some
of the less common coccidial parasites is diagnosed with a blood
is the coccidial infection treated?
most common drug used to eliminate coccidia is a sulfa-type
antibiotic. It is given for 10–14 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 important. The use of
diluted chlorine bleach [1 cup (250 ml) of bleach mixed in 1 gallon
(3.8 L) of water] is effective if the surfaces and premises can be
safely treated with it.
the coccidial parasites of my dog infectious to humans?
most common coccidia found in dogs do not have any affect on humans.
However, less common types of coccidia are potentially infectious to
humans. One parasite, called Cryptosporidium, may be carried
by dogs or cats and may be transmitted to people. This parasite has
also been found in public water supplies in some major cites. It
poses a health risk for immuno-suppressed humans such as AIDS
patients, those taking immune suppressing drugs, cancer patients, or
hygiene and proper disposal of dog feces are important in minimizing
risk of transmission of all canine parasites to humans, or to other