What is Coccidia? Coccidia is a protozoal organism. A protozoa is similar to a bacteria however it is more advanced; it has an intracellular nucleus like animal cells. For these advancements, protozoa belongs to s different Kingdom of Life from animals and bacteria. Coccis is a common infection of puppies and kittens under six months of age. Occassionally coccidia infection is seen in older pets who have been exposed to high levels of the pathogen or who have a lowered immune system by the presence of some other concurrent disease. There are several species of coccidia, all of whom have the same genus called Isospora. Isospora canis and Isospora ohioensis are the most common types seen in dogs.
Transmission and diagnosis of Coccidia
How does my dog get Coccidia? The transmission is fecal to oral transmission. This means that pets may get infected from any feces that contain the coccidian cysts. Pets who have been infected will develop immunity to the coccidia and while they are no longer showing any clinical signs, they may be shedding infective cysts in their feces. Thus puppies and kittens most often obtain the infection from their mother's feces. How soon do clinical signs begin from infection? There is an incubation period of 13 days. This means that from the time of infection, it take approximately 13 day for the clinical signs to begin to appear. Most pets who become infected are between 4 weeks and 14 weeks of age. What are the symptoms?
The most common sign
The stool can be light colored, soft, mucousy or explosive, watery and bloody
loss of appetite
death in sever cases
How is it diagnosed? It is diagnosed through routine fecal parasite screening tests. Sometimes this test is done right at the veterinarian's clinic or hospital and sometimes it is sent out to a reference laboratory. Can I or my children get Coccidia? No. The coccidian species that infects dogs and cats does not infect humans.
Treatment and prevention of Coccidia
What are the treatments?
Sulfa drugs, sulfadimethoxine (Albon) and
trimethoprim-sulfadiazine (Tribrissen),are used to control and treat Coccidia. It is important to note that
these medications do not kill the organism but inhibit its reproduction. By
inhibiting the organism from overpopulating it allows time for the pet to
develop immunity against the organism. Furthermore the control of the coccidia
reproduction and overpopulation also controls the clinical symptoms and
provides relief for the patient.
These medications are typically inexpensive and well
tolerated by most puppies and kittens.
Is there prevention?
Coccidia is difficult to control in the environment. This
protozoan is microscopic so can be easily left in an 'apparently clean'
environment. It also is resistant to freezing and most household and commercial
disinfectants. It can also be mechanically moved and transmitted by insects
such as cockroaches and even flies. Thus
a fly may carry coccidia on its feet from feces to the pet's food or water
bowl. This makes coccidia very difficult to control. Coccidia may also be
carried and transmitted by rodents.
Steam cleaning, burning and 10% ammonia solution can kill
coccidia. Important note: NEVER mix ammonia and bleach as they are TOXIC in
combination.Ammonia and bleach form
chlorine gas which is also known as mustard gas and was used as chemical
warfare in WWI and WWII. This mixture can kill both humans and pets.