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Coccidia (Coccidiosis): A Cause of Diarrhea
Race Foster, DVM
Marty Smith, DVM
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
What are coccidia?
Coccidia are small protozoans (one-celled organisms) that multiply in the
intestinal tracts of dogs and cats,
most commonly in puppies and kittens less than six months of age,
in adult animals whose immune system is suppressed,
or in animals who are stressed in other ways (e.g.; change in ownership, other disease present).
In dogs and cats, most coccidia are of the genus called Isospora.
Isospora canis and I. ohioensis are the species most often encountered in dogs.
Regardless of which species is present, we generally refer to the disease as coccidiosis.
As a puppy ages, he tends to develop a natural immunity to the effects of coccidia.
As an adult, he may carry coccidia in his intestines, and shed the cyst in the feces,
but experience no ill effects.
How are coccidia transmitted?
A puppy is not born with the coccidia organisms in his intestine.
However, once born, the puppy is frequently exposed to his mother's feces,
and if the mother is shedding the infective cysts in her feces,
then the young animals will likely ingest them and coccidia will develop within their intestines.
Since young puppies, usually those less than six months of age, have no immunity to coccidia,
the organisms reproduce in great numbers and parasitize the young animal's intestines. Oftentimes, this has severe effects.
From exposure to the coccidia in feces to the onset of the illness is about 13 days.
Most puppies who are ill from coccidia are, therefore, two weeks of age and older.
Although most infections are the result of spread from the mother, this is not always the case.
Any infected puppy or kitten is contagious to other puppies or kittens. In breeding facilities, shelters, animal hospitals, etc.,
it is wise to isolate those infected from those that are not.
What are the symptoms of coccidiosis?
The primary sign of an animal suffering with coccidiosis is diarrhea.
The diarrhea may be mild to severe depending on the level of infection.
Blood and mucous may be present, especially in advanced cases.
Severely affected animals may also vomit, lose their appetite, become dehydrated, and in some instances, die from the disease.
Most infected puppies encountered by the authors are in the four to twelve week age group.
The possibility of coccidiosis should always be considered when a loose stool or diarrhea is encountered in this age group.
A microscopic fecal exam by a veterinarian will detect the cysts confirming a diagnosis.
What are the risks?
Although many cases are mild, it is not uncommon to see severe, bloody diarrhea result in dehydration and even death.
This is most common in animals who are ill or infected with other parasites, bacteria, or viruses.
Coccidiosis is very contagious, especially among young puppies.
Entire kennels may become contaminated, with puppies of many age groups simultaneously affected.
What is the treatment of coccidiosis?
It should be mentioned that stress plays a role in the development of coccidiosis.
It is not uncommon for a seemingly healthy puppy to arrive at his new home and develop diarrhea several days later leading to a diagnosis of coccidia.
If the puppy has been at the new home for less than thirteen days, then he had coccidia before he arrived.
Remember, the incubation period (from exposure to illness) is about thirteen days.
If the puppy has been with his new owner several weeks, then the exposure to coccidia most likely occurred after the animal arrived at the new home.
Fortunately, coccidiosis is treatable.
Drugs such as sulfadimethoxine (Albon®) and trimethoprim-sulfadiazine (Tribrissen®) have been effective in the treatment and prevention of coccidia.
Because these drugs do not kill the organisms, but rather inhibit their reproduction capabilities, elimination of coccidia from the intestine is not rapid.
By stopping the ability of the protozoa to reproduce, time is allowed for the puppy's own immunity to develop and remove the organisms.
How is coccidiosis prevented or controlled?
Because coccidia is spread by the feces of carrier animals, it is very important to practice strict sanitation.
All fecal material should be removed. Housing needs to be such that food and water cannot become contaminated with feces.
Clean water should be provided at all times.
Most disinfectants do not work well against coccidia; incineration of the feces, and steam cleaning, immersion in boiling water, or a 10% ammonia solution are the best methods to kill coccidia.
Coccidia can withstand freezing.
Cockroaches and flies can mechanically carry coccidia from one place to another.
Mice and other animals can ingest the coccidia and when killed and eaten by a dog, for instance, can infect the dog.
Therefore, insect and rodent control is very important in preventing coccidiosis.
The coccidia species of dogs and cats do not infect humans.
THIS IS A CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM DISORDER,
CAUSED BY LOW BLOOD SUGAR.
IT OCCURS MAINLY IN TOY BREEDS BETWEEN SIX AND TWELVE WEEKS
OFTEN IS PRECIPITATED BY STRESS.
THE FIRST SIGNS ARE LISTLESSNESS AND DEPRESSION.
THEY ARE FOLLOWED BY MUSCULAR WEAKNESS,VOMITING
OR DIARRHEA, TREMORS (ESPECIALLY IN THE FACIAL
MUSCLES), AND LATER CONVULSIONS, COMA AND DEATH.
THE ENTIRE SEQUENCE IS NOT ALWAYS SEEN.
THE SMALL PUPPY MY SIMPLY APPEAR TO BE DEPRESSED OR HE
MAY BE WEAK, WOBBLY AND JERKY; OR HE MAY BE FOUND IN A COMA.
HYPOGLYCEMIA CAN OCCUR WITHOUT WARNING WHEN
A PUPPY IS PLACED IN A NEW HOME OR WHILE BEING SHIPPED.
IT MIGHT APPEAR AFTER A PUPPY MISSES A MEAL, CHILLS,
BECOMES EXHAUSTED FROM TOO MUCH PLAYING, OR HAS
A DIGESTIVE UPSET.
THESE UPSETS PLACE AN ADDED STRAIN ON THE ENERGY RESERVES
OF THE LIVER AND BRING ON SYMPTOMS,
IF THE PUPPY IS SUSCEPTIBLE.
TREATMENT: TREATMENT IS DIRECTED TO RESTORING BLOOD LEVELS
OF GLUCOSE. BEGIN AT ONCE. PROLONGED OR REPEATED ATTACKS
COULD CAUSE PERMANENT DAMAGE TO THE BRAIN.
IF THE PUPPY IS AWAKE, GIVE HIM KARO SYRUP,
HONEY OR SUGAR IN WATER BY MOUTH.
*NUTRA-CAL AND NUTRA-STAT ARE GOOD FOR THIS ALSO.
IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO KEEP A TUBE OF THIS ON HAND.
HE WILL BEGIN TO IMPROVE WITHIN 30 MINUTES.
WHEN HE IS UNCONSCIOUS, IT WILL BE NECESSARY TO GIVE HIM A
DEXTROSE SOLUTION INTRAVENOUSLY.
IT MAY BE NECESSARY TO TREAT FOR SWELLING OF THE BRAIN.
A VETERINARIAN SHOULD BE CALLED ONCE,
REGARDLESS IF THE PUPPY IS AWAKE OR UNCONSCIOUS.
PREVENT RECURRENT ATTACKS BY FEEDING A HIGH QUALITY FOOD DIET
AND ADDING TO IT SUGAR, SYRUP, HONEY, *NUTRA-CAL OR
*NUTRA-STAT. SEE THAT THE PUPPY EATS AT LEAST EVERY 4 HOURS
AND RECEIVES DAILY VITAMINS.
OWNERS OF TOY PUPPIES SHOULD NOT OVER TIRE THEM OR ALLOW
THEM TO CHILL. PLAY TIME SHOULD BE CONTROLLED AND LIMITED
TO PREVENT UNDUE STRESS AND TIRING. HYPOGLYCEMIA MUST BE OFFSET
BY FREQUENT FEEDINGS.
A PUPPY, WHO DOES NOT EAT FREQUENTLY,
FOR WHATEVER REASON, IS HEADING FOR TROUBLE.
*My added information
Source: DOG OWNERS HOME VETERINARY HANDBOOK
DR. DELBERT G. CARLSON, D.V.M.
DR. JAMES M. GRIFFIN, D.V.M.
We use NEOPAR PARVO Vaccine.
The ONLY Vaccine for PARVO that overrides maternal antibodies.
Do NOT use Lepto, Da1, PARTIAL DOSES.
Kennel Cough: we use use INTRA TRAC III NASAL,
Give RABIES according to State law.
EXTERNAL PARASITE PREVENTION:
We use Revolution
It kills fleas,roundworms,earmites and helps prevent Heartworms.
It is true that some animals have a systemic reaction,
including a low-grade fever or muscle aches and pain.
This reaction is more common in young and toy breed dogs
and causes them to eat less and sleep more for 24-48 hours.
Rarely, dogs will have a more severe reaction, characterized by hives,
swelling of the face, or even vomiting.
This reaction is easily prevented.
I reccomend giving 1/2 cc liquid Benadryl 1 hr before giving the shots.
In some rare cases dogs will have a more severe reaction leading to death.
Leptospirosis, the component most likely to produce such strong reactions,
can be left out of some vaccines.
(Therefore I do not reccomend any puppy to have a Lepto shot).
If your dog has had a vaccine reaction in the past,
don't skip future vaccinations but do warn the veterinarian so he can take
steps to prevent a recurrence.
This condition basically means a dislocated knee joint.
But it is usually a kneecap that will not stay in place.
This can happen in any Toy Breed with weak ligament,
tendon, or muscles, or if the groove for the kneecap is too shallow.
There are four grades of luxated patella.
However, if your puppy has any grade it could possibly
need surgery, or at the very least anti-inflammatory medications for a very long time.
I reccomend Hartz Ultimate Joint Support for small dogs.
Puppy will need revaccinated at 3-4 week interval`s,
until they have had a set of 4..
Wormings should be done at the same time..
If pups are kept warm and fed and seen by a Vet regularly
they will live a long life..
Hypothyroidism in Dogs:
One of the most common hormonal problems seen in dogs is a condition called hypothyroidism.
Dogs with hypothyroidism have a thyroid gland that does not function up to par.
Because the gland is under-active, it cannot produce enough thyroid hormone (thyroxine),
and the dog develops signs of hypothyroidism. Do not confuse this disease with a very different problem,
sometimes seen in cats, called hyperthyroidism. Cats that have hyperthyroidism produce too much thyroid hormone;
dogs with hypothyroidism produce too little thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is common in dogs, while hyperthyroidism is very rare.
You can remember the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism because the term 'hypo' means low or under, while "hyper" means excessive.
There can be many reasons for a dog to become hypothyroid, but most cases are caused by destruction of the dog's thyroid gland.
This may occur because the dog's own immune system decides that the gland's cells are foreign.
The dog's own body makes antibodies which attack the thyroid gland.
This results in an inflammatory condition called autoimmune thyroiditis, which eventually kills off the cells of the thyroid gland.
Without the thyroid cells, the thyroid hormone is not produced and hypothyroidism results.
The thyroid gland is extremely important in regulation of the body and is the primary endocrine (hormonal) gland involved in regulating metabolism.
If a dog becomes hypothyroid it may suffer from a low, or slow, metabolism. In addition, because the hormone regulates the entire body,
hypothyroid dogs can suffer from a number of disease-related problems. The disease can affect the cardio-vascular system, the nervous system,
the reproductive system, the skin, the eyes, and every other part of the body. Different dogs will have different symptoms and in each dog
the symptoms can be mild or severe.
Usually, dogs will have more than one problem from the disease. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include lethargy (acting tired),
dullness (losing interest in the surroundings), weight gain, hair loss, a dry hair coat, and intolerance to the cold.
So the dogs may seek warm places to sleep, take frequent naps, not want to play or go walking, and seem depressed.
Dogs that have hypothyroidism may also have a low heart rate, pigmentation of their skin, and changes in their blood work that include anemia and elevated cholesterol.
Some dogs get ear and skin infections that continualy return after treatment. A few dogs even show behavioral problems or changes that did not exist prior to the disease.
For example, a dog that is typically bold and friendly may show fear, anxiety, or aggression. Many dogs are diagnosed when their owners complain that the dog is shedding
excessively and gaining weight, even without eating more food.
Hypothyroidism can occur at any age, but most dogs are adults over 4 years of age.
The average age of onset is 7 years old, but dogs as young as 6 months old have been diagnosed.
It is commonly seen in mid-size or large breeds and is uncommon in small dogs and toy breeds.
Breeds that are at risk for hypothyroidism include retrievers, setters, cocker spaniels, and doberman pinschers.
Although both male and female dogs can become hypothyroid, there is a study in the United States that points to
spayed females and neutered males as being more likely to have the problem than intact dogs.
So a 7 year old spayed female golden retriever is more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism than a 1 year old miniature poodle that is not spayed.
The veterinarian can diagnose hypothyroidism using blood tests.
Sometimes more than one test is needed to confirm the disease and it may even be necessary to send the blood
to special endocrinology laboratories to check a panel of diagnostic blood tests.
You may hear your veterinarian request tests such as a T4, a T3, a TSH, free T4, free T3, and even a TSH response test.
These are tests that check hormone levels and the responsiveness of the thyroid gland.
Proper interpretation of these tests allows your veterinarian to make an accurate diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
All dogs that are hypothyroid should be treated.
Failure to treat the dog can result is obesity, skin disease, muscle disease, and even heart failure.
If your dog is diagnosed as having hypothyroidism, therapy will be started immediately.
Treatment involves giving the dog thyroid hormone replacement on a daily basis.
This is done by simply giving tablets to the dog. Both chewable tablets and small pills are available.
Once started, the dog's symptoms will resolve in a matter of weeks. The dog will remain on thyroid replacement for the rest of its life.
The initial dose of medication is determined by the dog's size and physical condition.
Typically, a blood test to check thyroid hormones levels is done several weeks after starting therapy so that the dose can be adjusted, if needed.
The veterinarian may also advise rechecking the dog's blood levels of thyroid hormone at intervals ranging from every six months to a year.
The good news about hypothyroidism in dogs is that it is very treatable.
The medication is relatively inexpensive and dogs can remain on treatment for their entire lives.
Promptly diagnosed and correctly treated, hypothyroidism will not interfere with your dog's daily life.
The dog will live out its entire lifespan and feel fine while doing so.
The biggest challenge is recognizing the varying signs of the illness so that diagnosis can be made.
If your dog is acting sluggish, gaining weight without eating more, suffering from recurrent ear infections,
shedding excessively, or acting as though its metabolism has slowed down, it may be suffering from hypothyroidism.
Have the dog checked by your veterinarian. Simple blood tests will provide an answer and allow you to remedy the problems,
so your dog will feel fine once again.
CANINE LIVER SHUNT
A LIVER SHUNT?
Liver shunts are a congenital problem in a certain percentage of canines/dogs.
WHAT CREATES A SHUNT?
During gestation the placenta delivers blood with food and oxygen from the mother
through the umbilical vein.
This means that in the fetus, circulation is the reverse of circulation after birth,
because the fetus' veins have the oxygenated blood and arteries return non-oxygenated blood to the heart.
In order to make this work, there is a shunt from the liver venous circulation to the arterial circulation.
At birth, the pressure within the circulatory system changes as respiration occurs and this shuts the shunt,
which eventually disappears.
If this reverse in circulation doesn't happen for some reason,
the liver is deprived of a blood supply and doesn't develop properly after birth.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE PUPPY?
Many puppies can live with the small functioning portion of the liver for some time
but eventually have problems and usually die if the situation is not corrected.
HOW IS A LIVER SHUNT DIAGNOSED?
A Bile Acid test is performed by taking a blood sample, giving a meal,
then taking another blood sample 2 hours after the meal.
Comparing the pre-meal and post-meal blood results gives us valuable information.
The bile acids test is an accurate measure of liver function.
CAN MY PUPPY BE SAVED?
It is possible in some cases to surgically close the shunt.
Some dogs can live a long time (up to about 4-5 years) with this problem before it is detected.