COCCIDIA - internal parasite

Is a single-cell protozoan, that colonize and attack the lining of the dog's intestine.  Coccidia are not worms; they are microscopic parasites which live within cells of the intestinal lining.  Because they live in the intestinal tract and commonly cause diarrhea, they are often confused with worms.   It is primarily found in situations where dogs are kept in crowded, unhygienic conditions, symptoms of coccida infestation (or coccidiosis) include appetite and weight loss, bloody stools and diarrhea with mucus. The eggs of coccidia, which are passed in the dog's feces, are spread to new host animals when they are ingested during self-grooming. Although Coccidiosis can be fatal in puppies, mature dogs usually build up immunity to this parasite.

Since the infection is usually mild, symptoms usually do not occur unless the pup's resistance has been lowered by concurrent disease, malnutrition, or immunosuppression.

Coccidiosis is a particular problem in neonatal puppies overstressed by crowding, chilling and poor sanitation.  An outbreak of coccidial diarrhea can occur in association with roundworm infestation or the trauma of shipping.     Puppies acquire the infection from contaminated premises or from their mother if she is a carrier. 

The first sign is mild diarrhea that progresses until the feces become mucus-like and tinged with blood.  The diarrhea is accompanied by loss of appetite, weakness and dehydration.  Dogs that recover become carriers.      

Diagnosis is made by successive microscopic examinations of stool samples. Treatment is usually with sulfa drugs. In order to keep infection from recurring, it is essential that hygiene standards are raised, crowding is reduced and that all bedding and food bowls are disinfected.



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