Coccidiosis is an infection of the intestinal tract caused by a one-celled organism called coccidia. Infection is usually mild but can be damaging or life-threatening to newborn animals or any animal with a weak immune system.
Immature coccidian, called oocysts, are passed in the stool of an infected dog. They survive for a long time and mature on the ground. If an animal swallows the matured oocysts, they mature even further in the animal's intestine.
Causes of infection include:
- Eating contaminated ground
- Eating an infected mouse
- Babies nursing from an infected mother
- Animals less than 6 months have no immunity to coccidia and can get the disease from other infected puppies
In kennels, animal shelters, and breeding facilities, infected animals should be isolated.
Most pets that are infected with coccidia do not display signs.
However, puppies and weak dogs usually display the following signs:
- Severe, watery, bloody diarrhea
- Vomiting and dehydration
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
Quick treatment is crucial for newborn animals to prevent life-threatening dehydration. If you see dehydration or diarrhea for more than a few days, call your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian will do the following:
- Review medical history
- Perform a physical exam
- Study a stool sample
Coccidiosis is very easy to treat with antibiotics.
Albon is a common medication and comes in tablets and liquid. These antibiotics disrupt the coccidian life cycle, which allows your pet's immune system to clear the infection.
Recovery depends on the number of coccidias infecting your pet and the strength of your pet's immune system.
Your pet may need other drugs to treat diarrhea and dehydration. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required for rehydration.
Keep a clean environment, and dispose of feces properly to prevent coccidiosis from spreading.
In most cases, coccidiosis is a mild disease with a good prognosis.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM