Coccidia in Cats and Dogs
Coccidia is a microscopic parasite that takes up an unwelcome residence in your pet’s intestines. While it’s most commonly an issue for puppies and kittens (newborns don’t have a hearty immune system yet), it is possible for mature pets to become infected as well. Once the parasites have entered your pet’s system, they tend to reproduce pretty quickly. This causes damage to your pet’s intestines and, as you might expect, can be very uncomfortable.
Fortunately, coccidia isn’t usually life-threatening and can be easily treated by your veterinarian, but swift attention is necessary to prevent it from worsening and to restore comfort to your sweet fur ball.
Coccidia Causes & Prevention
Your pet can become infected with the coccidia parasite by ingesting anything that is already contaminated. The most common culprits are dirt, water, feces, food, and rodents. The parasite also tends to thrive in overcrowded or unsanitary animal shelters, puppy mills, and breeding kennels. Coccidia can also be transmitted to kittens and puppies from their mothers either at birth or while nursing.
Taking preventative measures is important to stop the spread of coccidia. Your pet’s environment should be kept sanitary and their food and water supply should always be fresh. Curb your pet from eating dirt or feces, change the litter box frequently, prevent your pets from hunting or eating rodents, isolate your pet from others that may be infected, and keep their immune system bolstered via proper nutrition and regular vet visits.
Signs Your Pet Has Coccidia
It can take three to seven days for your pet to become symptomatic. Once they do, common coccidia symptoms include:
- Watery or viscous diarrhea (which sometimes contains blood)
- Abdominal sensitivity (watch for signs of pain or discomfort)
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
Remember, not all of these symptoms may be present. Your pup or kitty could present only one or two.
Coccidia Treatment Plan
As mentioned, coccidia isn’t usually life threatening. However, if your cat or dog has a compromised immune system or is very young or very old, there is a greater chance of serious intestinal damage and potential death. Regardless, if you suspect your pet has coccidia then a visit to the vet is required immediately because dehydration can be very serious.
Once at the vet, your doctor will gather information about your pet’s symptoms, complete a physical examination, and will request a fresh fecal matter to test for the coccidia parasite. (Yep, you’ll need to collect that yourself or leave your pet at the vet until he or she does their business). The test is quite simple: the fecal matter is mixed with a special solution that causes any parasites to separate. These are then examined under a microscope, and a diagnosis can be made on the spot.
If your pet is diagnosed with coccidia, your veterinarian will prescribe a round of antibiotics that will kill off the parasites. After your pet has finished their antibiotics, a second fecal matter test will be completed in order to ensure the parasite is gone. If it’s still present, a second round and follow-up test will be ordered. Other treatments to help with dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, and discomfort may also be prescribed. In severe cases, your vet may keep your pet at the clinic to nurse them back to a stable condition before beginning antibiotics.
Note that if you have other pets at home, they, too, may be infected with coccidia. It’s important to have each one tested and, if necessary, treated.
Can I Get Coccidia From My Pet?
Though coccidia can be transferred easily from dog to dog, and from cat to cat, the parasite isn’t transferred between cat and dog. Also, it is rarely transferred from pet to human, though there are a few rare strains of the parasite that can potentially be transmitted.
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