Coccidiosis in Dogs – Symptoms, Preventions, and Treatment

Does your dog suffer from diarrhea? There can be numerous triggers for this, and one of these is coccidiosis in dogs. This disease is caused by single-cell parasites that attack the intestines.

In the following sections, we summarize what coccidiosis in dogs entails. You will also learn how to recognize them and get rid of them as quickly as possible.

Canine Coccidiosis – What Is It Exactly?

Coccidiosis in dogs is a disease caused by parasites. In this case, the culprits are tiny protozoa of the genus Cystoisospora. They come in many different types and are found all over the world. The parasites that lead to coccidiosis in dogs can only multiply in the intestinal tract, and they cannot affect other parts of the dog’s body.

A microscopic view of coccidiosis
Photo Credit: vet_.study_

These small unicellular organisms attack the intestinal tract in the dog’s body, nestling in the mucous membrane. They destroy the surrounding intestinal cells, multiply and trigger the symptoms typical of coccidiosis in dogs.

Where does my dog ​​get coccidiosis?

Your dog can only get coccidiosis if it ingests either the oocysts, the eggs, or the coccidia themselves.

The parasite eggs are mostly found in the feces of other infected dogs. When a dog becomes infected, it takes about one to two weeks for that dog to excrete oocysts in its feces. This then becomes a danger point for other dogs. Even after the droppings are gone, the eggs can still be found on the floor. 

Infection is possible through feces because the oocysts in the infected dog’s feces are resistant to many environmental conditions, meaning they can survive after being excreted for a while. Under certain environmental conditions, they become infective again, and once an unsuspecting dog ingests them at this point, it becomes infected. Once the oocysts are in the dog’s system, they would release “sprozoites” that would attack the lining cells in the intestine and set up a cycle of infection in neighboring cells.

A dog eating a bone on the grass

The dog can ingest the parasites themselves by eating contaminated food. The parasite could also infect other animals such as cattle and small rodents, and where a dog ingests their remains, it becomes infected. They are called paratenic hosts. Though the parasites cannot reproduce here, they can still infect their organs and meat. If your dog eats raw, infected beef, for example, the intestinal parasites get into his system, and he starts showing symptoms of Coccidiosis in dogs.

How to Prevent Coccidiosis in dogs?

Although Coccidiosis in dogs can be treated, your furry friend shouldn’t be a victim of the parasite’s attack at all. These are some steps that would help prevent your dog from getting infected with Coccidiosis and similar infections:

  • Fecal examinations, preferably several times a year
  • Hygiene measures
  • Feed hygiene, especially when feeding raw meat

What symptoms does coccidiosis cause in dogs?

Coccidiosis in dogs usually only shows visible symptoms in puppies. As with human infants, the immune system is still inexperienced and therefore more vulnerable. Symptoms can also appear in dogs that have been weakened by other previous illnesses or by old age.

A dog suffering from coccidiosis
Photo Credit: hannspaul

Coccidiosis in dogs mostly causes intestinal problems because that’s the only organ in a dog’s body where the parasite can multiply. Some of such problems are;

  • Diarrhea: This is the most common and noticeable symptom. It can vary in its characteristics but is mostly watery and thin. In some cases, it could have traces of blood included.
  • Nutrient deficiency: This can lead to emaciation and slow growth in young animals.

In addition to these intestinal complaints, additional unspecific symptoms can occur. Dogs infected with coccidiosis also often show decreased appetite, tiredness, and dehydration. In more severe cases, fever and electrolyte imbalance can occur, which can be really dangerous for the dog’s health.

In the case of particularly severe diarrhea, the energy reserves of puppies can be used up very quickly. If treatment is not provided quickly, it can even lead to death in the worst case. So if your puppy has persistent diarrhea, don’t hesitate and see your vet quickly.

How is coccidiosis diagnosed in dogs?

If you have decided to visit a veterinarian, they will first take an anamnesis. In this, he will then ask you as the dog owner a few questions, so you should have the answers ready. Such questions could be:

  • How long has your dog had symptoms?
  • Does your dog have any accompanying complaints?
  • Does your dog have any previous illnesses?
  • Are the symptoms more common at certain times of the day?
  • Has your dog been in a potentially dangerous spot (for example, eating infected feces in the park)?

A general clinical examination will then be carried out after the owner interview. This is used to check the general state of health. If it is noticed that his circulation is unstable, an infusion can be used here immediately. This can often save lives, especially in puppies, as vital fluids and electrolytes are supplemented.

In order to be able to diagnose coccidiosis in dogs finally, a fecal examination must be carried out. To do this, you should collect your dog’s feces on three different days, as the parasites can always be found in different amounts in the excrement.

The feces are then examined under a microscope in the laboratory. There the intestinal parasites can be recognized with the flotation process.

How is coccidiosis treated in dogs?

A dog getting medication from his owner
Photo Credit: sninecbd

Medical treatment

As with most parasite infestations, the only way to get your dog’s coccidiosis under control is medication. For this purpose, for example, toltrazuril or sulfonamides are administered by the veterinarian. If a secondary bacterial infection occurs during a parasite infestation, this is treated with antibiotics.

Since the main symptom of coccidiosis in dogs is diarrhea, you should provide your dog with adequate water. This is how you can compensate for the loss of fluids. In order to support the gastrointestinal tract of your dog during the treatment phase, we recommend switching to light foods as a dietary measure.

Home Hygiene measures

In addition to treating your dog’s coccidiosis directly, you should also take extra hygiene measures. If you have several dogs that are in contact with each other, you should also have the others treated preventively, even if they are not infected.

The excreted manure must also be removed directly, and the manure areas cleaned regularly. Toys, food, and water bowls, as well as contaminated surfaces at home, must also be cleaned daily with hot water, ideally also disinfected. This is the only way to prevent other dogs from developing coccidiosis.

Frequently Asked Questions about Coccidiosis in Dogs

Coccidiosis is an intestinal infection caused by protozoa known as coccidia in the dog’s intestine. The protozoa multiply in the intestinal tract, destroying the surrounding intestinal cells, causing diarrhea and nutrient deficiency, and similar health complications for the dog.

The infection is caused by the dog ingesting the oocysts, the eggs, or the coccidia themselves. They are usually released into the environment through the feces of infected dogs. When your dog comes in contact with infected manure or ingests contaminated food, it is infected.

The most common sign of Coccidiosis in dogs is diarrhea, and the feces is usually watery, thin, and could sometimes be bloody. Infected dogs typically show decreased appetite, tiredness, dehydration, and physical symptoms like emaciation. Where it is not treated, the symptoms would get more severe with time.

Humans would not get infected most of the time because the most common coccidia cannot affect humans. However, there are less common types of coccidia that can infect humans, and they are usually potentially dangerous for older people or persons with underlying immunosuppressed illnesses.

If your dog has Coccidiosis, you should see a vet. The doctor would recommend medication best for treating the infection in your dog. While taking medication, ensure your dog takes in a good amount of water because he would be showing symptoms of dehydration, and if he does not take in water, the symptoms could become more severe.

Final thoughts on Coccidiosis in dogs

Many dogs can be infected with Coccidiosis and not show any symptoms of infection. However, where they do, it should be attended to. If coccidiosis is recognized early, it can be cured quickly, while if it is left untreated for a long time, the symptoms could get severe and even cause death. As you’re taking hygienic preventive steps to prevent a Coccidiosis attack on your dog, get him tested and treated at a vet as soon as possible if he shows any of the symptoms highlighted in this article.