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Common Puppyhood Illnesses: Coccidia


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Just as non-furry children tend to get childhood illnesses like chicken pox, puppies can also be susceptible to similar puppyhood illnesses. One fairly common illness that you may encounter is coccidia, also known as coccidiosis. Coccidia are single-celled organisms that can infect a puppy or adult dog’s intestinal tract. It may sound scary, but it is generally mild and easily treatable. Like many puppy illnesses, the main symptom is diarrhea. It is important to bring your puppy in to the vet any time he displays signs of digestive distress to ensure prompt treatment of any illnesses. This will also help prevent the problem from spreading to other pets that your pup may come in contact with. We’ve spoken to our veterinary consultant, Dr. Brandon Sinn, to bring you everything you need to know about identifying and treating coccidia in your puppy.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of coccidiosis are mild to severe diarrhea and loss of appetite, but may also include vomiting in severe cases. Diarrhea can be a sign of other infections such as Giardia as well, so your vet will need to perform a stool sample test to confirm the diagnosis. Symptoms generally appear approximately 13 days from initial infection. Most dogs and puppies will recover quickly from coccidiosis, but it is important to get prompt treatment to prevent dehydration and other complications.

How does Coccidia spread?
Like Giardia, coccidia infection is spread through feces. You may have noticed that your puppy is very interested in the droppings of dogs and other animals. While this is perfectly normal behavior, it is best to keep them away from animal droppings to prevent diseases like coccidia that spread through the ingestion of infected fecal material. Similarly, if your own puppy has been diagnosed with coccidia, it is important to clean up after him promptly to help protect other dogs who may come to investigate.

Puppies and adult dogs with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk for coccidiosis. A healthy adult dog with a strong immune system may show no signs of infection and suffer no ill effects themselves, but can still spread coccidia to other animals.

Treatment and Prevention
Drugs such as Albon (sulfadimethoxine), Tribrissen (trimethoprimsulfadiazine) and Marquis have been effective in treating dogs infected with coccidia. These drugs work by preventing the coccidia organisms from reproducing, which gives the puppy time to build up an immunity. While these drugs do not completely eradicate a coccidia infection, they do resolve the puppy’s symptoms. They can also be given to prevent future flare-ups in an adult dog with a history of coccidiosis.

There are many preventative measures you can take to keep your puppy healthy and free from coccidia and other puppyhood illnesses. Always pick up after your dog after he goes to the bathroom and be sure to provide him with clean drinking water. It is best to discourage him from hunting small animals, as they may carry coccidia and can transfer the infection to your dog if they are eaten. If your puppy shows any symptoms of coccidia or another illness, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian!

With proper treatment and preventative measures, coccidia infection can pass quickly and uneventfully and will not impact your puppy’s quality of life.