Coccidiosis is caused by a one-celled organism called coccidia. Coccidia can often be confused with o?=wormso?= because it lives in the small intestines of pets. However, it is classifed as a protozoan, not a worm. In fact, it is one of the most commonly diagnosed protozoan diseases in puppies and kittens and is rarely a problem in adult pets.
Many pets that are infected with coccidia will not have any clinical signs. However, the most common clinical sign of infection is diarrhea. Coccidia infestation is the most common cause of diarrhea in kittens and puppies less than six months old.
When coccidia oocysts (eggs) are found in the stool of adult pets without diarrhea, they are generally considered to be an insignificant finding. In the majority of cases no treatment is necessary. However, in young and debilitated animals, they may cause severe diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal distress, and vomiting. In severe cases, death can occur.
Pets become infected with coccidia by ingesting oocysts which have been passed through feces by other infected pets. It is often a problem in areas where a large number of pets are housed together such as breeding kennels, pet stores, and puppy mills.
If you notice your dog eating poop, take steps to prevent it from happening again and pay special attention to your animal to see if coccidiosis symptoms develop.
Oocysts are very resistant to environmental conditions and ordinary household disinfectants so proper sanitation is a must to control reinfestation. The use of diluted bleach is effective as long as the surface can be safely treated with it. Daily stool pickup is also encouraged.
Coccidiosis is usually diagnosed by looking at a sample of stool under a microscope for the presence of oocysts. Most often the treatment for coccidiosis involves the use of an oral medication that is given for two weeks or more. A recheck fecal exam should be performed in 2-3 weeks to ensure treatment has been effective.
The most common coccidia found in pets, Isospora spp., do not have any affect on humans. However, there are less common types of coccidia that are potentially infectious to people. 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 the elderly.
As always, good hygiene and proper disposal of pet feces is a must. This is the best way to minimize the risk of transmission of all pet parasites to humans, or to other animals.
Taking proper care of your dog requires special knowledge of health issues related to owning a dog. I highly recommend you get a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Dog Health. To learn more about this indispensable resource, you can visit the site directly or read my review.