Intestinal Parasite, Coccidia
Coccidia are a subclass of microscopic, spore-forming, single-celled obligate intracellular parasites belonging to the apicomplexan class Conoidasida. As obligate intracellular parasites, they must live and reproduce within an animal cell.
Coccidiosis is a parasitic type of infection, caused by the coccidium, that most commonly causes watery, mucus-based diarrhea in dogs. If it is not treated, over time it can cause damage to the lining of the dog's intestinal tract. With treatment, the prognosis is good. The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library. You may notice that the dog has watery, mucous-like diarrhea. As the condition progresses, bloody diarrhea and an inability to withhold it will begin to show. The dog may also be in a weakened state.
Stress, as from moving, travel and weather changes, and being in an environment with other infected animals are the most common causes of this parasitic infection to develop. It is spread through fecal matter, and is most commonly found in puppies that have contracted the parasite from an adult dogs' feces. The coccidiosis infection is of particular danger for young dogs, since their immune systems are still underdeveloped.
A fecal examination is the most common method of diagnosis for this infection. The coccidium parasite will be readily visible under a microscope.
Treatment is generally outpatient. A medication to kill the parasite will be prescribed, and is generally highly effective and fast working. The dog will need to be rehydrated as a result of the diarrhea. If the dog is debilitated, it may be kept for observation. A follow up fecal examination within one to two weeks of the initial treatment will be needed to ensure that the parasite is no longer present in the animal's body.
Owners should administer the prescribed medication as directed and monitor the dog for progress. If there is a decline in the dog's health, they should visit their veterinarian to ensure that there is not a more serious underlying health cause.
The best prevention is to keep infected animals apart. Testing the feces from a dog that is pregnant or has given birth to be sure that it is not infected will protect newborns from infection, or alert the breeder or owner to the problem so that treatment can be prescribed. New owners may wish to test the feces of a young dog as a preventive, since this is a common issue.