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Coccidia in Dogs

Coccidia commonly affect puppies.

Coccidia is a parasite (caused by a single-celled organism called a protozoa, not a virus, bacteria, or fungus) that lives in a dog's intestines. Most of the coccidial infections that occur in dogs are caused by organisms in the Isospora genus. When a dog has a coccida infection, they might be said to suffer from coccidiosis.

How Do Dogs Become Infected with Coccidia?

Dogs get coccidia when they eat infective spores that were passed into the environment in the stool of an infected dog. They can also get it if they eat a rodent that was infected with it. Once eggs are passed in the stool, they can become ready to infect another dog in as few as 12 hours.

Coccidia is most commonly found in dogs that have been recently living in situations with lots of other dogs, like kennels or shelters.

Signs of Canine Coccidiosis

Dogs with coccidia usually don't have any signs of illness, and their immune system can clear the problem on its own. However, in puppies or adult dogs that are immune-compromised because of another condition, coccidia can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, intestinal cramping and bloating, and sometimes even death.

How Do Veterinarians Diagnose the Presence of Coccidia in Dogs?

Coccidia eggs may be seen under the microscope when a veterinarian performs a fecal flotation test. The eggs of coccidia are quite a bit smaller than the eggs of intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms, so the sample must be scrutinized to find them.

How Is Canine Coccidia Treated?

General deworming medications commonly used in dogs do not kill the protozoal coccidia.

There are a few medications available to treat coccidia, and they might be required if a dog has diarrhea or vomiting. Also, the environment in which the dog lives should be thoroughly cleaned with a dilute bleach solution on surfaces that can handle it. Steam cleaning upholstery should kill the infective cysts, too.

Clean up all stool passed by your dog right away to decrease the environmental contamination that occurs. If your dog has diarrhea and you can't pick it up from the yard, try using water to dilute it as much as possible.

Can Humans Get Coccidia from Dogs?

Most of the time, humans aren't susceptible to contracting coccidia infections from their dogs. However, one type, Cryptosporidium, can travel with dogs and then affect human, especially immune-compromised people.

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