Coccidiosis in dogs
Coccidiosis is an intestinal parasite that affects most animal species, including humans
However, the most common coccidia found in our pets do not have an impact on human health. In dogs, most coccidia belong to the genus of Isospora, the most common species are: I. canis and I. ohioensis, which mainly invade and damage the small intestine.
Coccidiosis is often found in puppies younger than 6 months old. Between the 4th and 6th week of age coccidiosis in dogs can cause high mortality if not detected and treated early. Adults generally show no symptoms but can be carriers and contribute to its spread.
Coccidia eggs, also called oocysts, are found in the environment and eliminated through infected animals’ feces. Being expelled into the environment does not give oocysts direct capacity of infestation. One to seven days are required – depending on environmental conditions – for the sporulated oocysts to become infective. They can also survive for weeks or months as high humidity and temperature can elongate their life cycle.
Eggs ingested by puppies will reach the intestine and parasitize the cells. This is the location where the rest of the biological cycle occurs, consisting of a first asexual stage for the first three generations; a second sexual stage; and a 3rd sporogonial stage that leads to the elimination of oocysts through feces.
Each ingested egg can form hundreds of thousands of intestinal coccidia, each destroying an intestinal cell.
Symptoms of coccidiosis in dogs
Coccidiosis symptoms appear when the number of destroyed cells in the intestine exceeds the dog’s ability to recover. Therefore, the severity of the process depends on the amount of ingested eggs and the immune status of the animal.
If ingestion of oocysts is low and the animal is healthy, oocysts elimination will occur as long as the dog develops its immune system to fight a particular coccidia However, if the intake is high and in a short period of time, and the immune system happens to be weak – as a result of malnutrition, other diseases or stress – the degree of affectation will be more severe in puppies.
Common symptoms of coccidiosis in pets include:
• Diarrhoea, sometimes bloody and mucus
• Decreased appetite
• Weight loss
• Stunted growth
In severe cases the disease can lead to death.
Coccidiosis diagnose is performed through coproparasitological analysis, in which the presence of oocysts in feces is determined. A negative result may be due to a period of non fecal expulsion of eggs, so it is highly recommended to repeat the analysis.
Finally, health and medical prophylaxis of coccidiosis consists of:
• Cleaning and disinfecting the areas more frequented by our pets.
• Control of rodents and insects.
• Providing available clean water at any time.
• Disinfecting feeders, beds, etc.
• Dealing appropriately with coccidia with products such as sulfa antibiotics and a supportive therapy to protect the intestinal mucosa; the use of probiotics or plant extract additives that stimulate intestinal immunity.