What Is Coccidia In Dogs?
Causes, signs and treatment for this intestinal illness.
Anytime your pup’s acting a little off — especially if he has diarrhea or is throwing up — you’re probably worried that he’s sick.
If your dog is having intestinal issues, one cause of his illness could be coccidia. But what is coccidia in dogs anyway, and how is it treated?
We reached out to Dr. Aliya McCullough, a veterinarian on staff at Fetch by The Dodo, and Dr. Hilary Jones, a veterinarian and chief veterinary officer with DodoVet, to find out what pet parents should know about coccidia in dogs and what you can do to help him feel better again.
What are coccidia in dogs?
Coccidia are single-cell parasites (protozoa) that can cause an intestinal illness called coccidiosis. “The most common coccidia found in dogs are Isospora (also known as Cystoisospora) and Cryptosporidium,” Dr. McCullough told The Dodo
Dogs can get coccidiosis by ingesting oocysts, the immature form of the parasite. This happens when a pup comes into contact with poop from an infected dog or consumes contaminated food, water or dirt.
“Dogs that are debilitated, young or immunocompromised are more susceptible to coccidiosis,” Dr. McCullough said.
Coccidiosis is contagious between dogs, but your pup can’t spread it to you or other animals, like cats.
Symptoms of coccidia in dogs
These are the common symptoms of coccidiosis, according to Dr. McCullough:
- Diarrhea (can be bloody)
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
Dogs with compromised immune systems can have more serious symptoms, and coccidiosis can even be fatal for them, so take your pup to the vet if you notice any of these signs of illness so he can be diagnosed.
Some dogs might not show any symptoms when they have coccidiosis, though. In these cases, your vet will likely find the parasites at a regular checkup appointment.
How to treat coccidia
Luckily, the treatment for coccidiosis is pretty simple: Sulfadimethoxine, an antimicrobial medication, is typically prescribed to get rid of the parasites. Your vet might also give your dog antidiarrheal medicine to help with his symptoms.
Some pups who still have symptoms or whose poop still tests positive for coccidia after treatment may receive another round of medicine. Your vet might prescribe a medication like ponazuril, which treats protozoal parasites.
For dogs with severe symptoms, “hospitalization with intravenous fluid therapy [to help with hydration] and supportive care may be necessary,” Dr. McCullough said.
How to prevent coccidia in dogs
There are a few simple ways you can help prevent your dog from getting coccidia.
“The best way to prevent coccidia is to pick up your dog's stool from your yard and the environment where they regularly walk,” Dr. Jones told The Dodo. “Try not to walk your dog in areas that have a high volume of dog feces on the ground, and keep your dog away from other dogs you know that are infected.”
Read on to find out more about how you can keep your pup safe:
Clean up after your dog
Be sure to remove your dog’s poop from your yard or the street, Dr. McCullough said. Getting rid of infected poop protects other dogs, and it’ll help prevent your pup from getting reinfected with the parasite. Don’t let your dog eat his own poop or other pups’ poop either.
Keep your dog away from other pups while sick
Coccidiosis is contagious between dogs, so you’ll have to keep your pup away from others while he’s being treated. “If your dog has coccidiosis, avoid contact with other dogs, including at doggie daycare and the dog park, until the infection has cleared to prevent spreading it to other dogs,” Dr. McCullough added.
Get regular fecal tests
Get your pup’s poop tested for parasites at least once per year. Even if he doesn’t have symptoms, he can still infect other dogs by shedding the parasite in his poop. If you recently adopted a new dog or puppy, you should get him tested as soon as he comes home.
If you’re worried about any health issues in your dog, it’s a good idea to have pet insurance to offset any costs that come up.
If you're looking for pet insurance to help pay for treatment for coccidiosis or other infections, you’ll want to check out Fetch by The Dodo. It's made by and for adoring pet parents, and it's the most comprehensive coverage in the U.S. and Canada, covering things that other providers don't or charge extra for, like prescribed supplements.
Knowing more about the symptoms of coccidiosis in dogs and how to prevent it will go a long way towards helping your pup have an active and healthy life. And remember to watch out for that poop, friends!
Want access to a vet 24/7? With DodoVet, you can connect via video chat, phone or text with an empathetic veterinary expert who can help you be the best pet parent you can be. Say goodbye to Dr. Google and have all your pet parent questions answered anytime, anywhere. Learn more here.