|So your pet has been diagnosed with Coccidiosis. Coccidia are protozoans (one-celled organisms)
that infects the small intestines of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. Most dogs have a certain
immunity to its effects; however, puppies, stressed dogs and those with their immune systems
suppressed may sometimes display symptoms of Coccidiosis. Coccidia is common Worldwide.
This is why most times when a puppy goes to their new home this is usually when Coccidia
symptoms show, due to the stress of travel, new environment, change of water, being away from
litter mates and all other stresses that puppies encounter in their new homes.
How is it transmitted?
Most dogs are carriers and shed the cysts in their feces.
Adult coccidia in an infected dog or cat will pass tiny egg like organisms called “Oocysts” through
the stool. These Oocysts are accidentally eaten by your pet.
A puppy, who has no immunity to Coccidia, reproduces the organisms in great numbers in the
A puppy can pick it up through their mother's feces, cats, mice, flies, ticks, fleas and cockroaches,
soil and even eating grass; these all can contribute to its spread. They can even pick it up after
licking their feet after being outside, at the dog park or Veterinarian's office. You can also bring it
into your environment on your shoes.
Symptoms of Coccidia
The first and classic sign of Coccidiosis is diarrhea.
Depending on the severity of the infection, the diarrhea may be mild or severe. It may include
blood or mucus, in very severe cases, and be accompanied by a foul odor. Many times; however,
Coccidiosis may cause only loose stool, and this should be regarded as suspect anyway. The
infection can increase in severity if left untreated while the parasite multiplies in the intestinal
Severe cases may see a loss of appetite. In very severe cases, vomiting may occur. When
accompanied with diarrhea, this can cause severe dehydration, and some dogs may die from the
infection. Most cases; however, are mild, and most of the dogs that have died from Coccidiosis
were also infected with another virus or bacteria.
Anytime a puppy has diarrhea it should be taken seriously.
Dehydration can happen quickly in a puppy or young dog.
Detection of Coccidia
The only way to detect the presence of a Coccidia infection in a dog is to examine the feces under
a microscope to visually detect the presence of the sporozoites or merozoites. The feces are
mixed with a special solution designed to separate the parasite eggs from the fecal material and
float them to the top, allowing them to be captured on a microscope glass. Dogs in the early
stages of infection may be difficult to diagnose, as there may not be enough free sporozoites, or
stage one immature Coccidia or merozoites, or stage two immature Coccidia, present in the feces
Several fecal examinations may be required to diagnose infection.
Coccidiosis is a very treatable dog infection. The two main drugs most effective are
sulfadimethoxine (Albon) and trimethoprimsulfadiazine (Tribrissen), along with Flagyl may be
prescribed. These drugs actually do not kill the coccidia; they merely prevent reproductive
capabilities and the Flagyl helps control the loose stool. Recovery from coccidiosis is slow, and a
complete recovery occurs only once the presence of a stable immune response is established.
The average time is approximately 5-21 days.
Prevention & Disinfecting
As coccidia are protozoa, and not bacteria, most disinfectants are useless against it.
Coccidia organisms are very hardy, can survive for long periods in the soil, and are difficult to kill -
most household cleaners aren't going to be effective. Cleaning at high temperatures (ie steam
cleaning and sterilization with boiling water) is the best option for utensils and toys (ie bowls,
chew toys etc.). Wash bedding on the 'HOT' cycle in your washing machine with bleach added.
For floors, concrete etc., washing thoroughly with a 10% ammonia solution is the best and most
effective way to keep everything sanitary. You can also use a 1:16 solution of bleach:water.
It's important to note that Coccidia can withstand freezing temperatures, and morning frost will
not kill the parasite on outdoor droppings.
Your dog or puppy will develop immunity to it in his life, and any infection in a healthy dog is
usually unheard of by the adult years.