Most dog owners are familiar with the kinds of parasites that can affect their pups, like worms, fleas, and ticks. One kind of parasite that you’re likely to come across is coccidia.
Coccidia in dogs are parasites that affect the intestinal tract. Coccidia can lead to a few health issues for dogs, so it’s best to know what symptoms to look for and what you can expect during treatment.
Coccidia is a gastrointestinal parasite often found in rescue puppies. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, these protozoa are one of the most common intestinal parasites among dogs.3
Coccidia can infect a number of animals but are host-specific. This means only a few kinds of coccidia affect dogs — namely Isospora, Hammondia, and Sarcocystis.3
You may hear your veterinarian describe a coccidia infection using the term coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is a disease that can make animals very sick. You may also hear the word “coccidium” when talking about a singular organism.
Dogs become infected by ingesting the coccidia, usually through contaminated feces, water, plants, or soil.4 Once ingested, coccidia then invade your dog’s intestinal lining and quickly reproduce. Dogs will shed the coccidia in their stool, allowing the coccidia to begin their life cycle again in another host.
Coccidia symptoms in dogs can include:4,5
- Weight loss
The most common symptom of coccidiosis is diarrhea. Weight loss, dehydration, and vomiting may only be present in more serious or recurrent infections. Although infected dogs can experience any of these symptoms, coccidiosis rarely has clinical signs.3
Coccidia treatment in dogs starts with a diagnosis. Your veterinarian will request a stool sample to perform a fecal test. Depending on the severity of the infection, your vet may prescribe an antibiotic, like Albon.4 They may also administer fluids if your dog is dehydrated.
Luckily, most cases of coccidiosis rarely require treatment.5 Your dog is likely to shed the infection on their own. Although this may be true, don’t hesitate to seek veterinary care if your dog is showing symptoms.
Because it is host-specific, coccidia in dogs is only contagious to other dogs. Puppies and immunocompromised dogs are especially susceptible to coccidia infections. However, humans are highly unlikely to be affected by these strains of coccidia.5
If your dog has been diagnosed with a coccidia infection, it’s important to keep them away from other dogs until the infection has been treated. Key places to avoid include dog parks and doggy daycare.
There are a number of ways you can help prevent coccidia infections for your furry family members:5, 6
- Keep your dog’s environment clean: Keeping your dog’s food and water away from the places they relieve themselves and picking up after them can help keep spaces free from contamination.
- Ensure they have access to safe drinking water: Consider bringing a water bowl and fresh water for longer walks and outdoor activity. If possible, avoid letting your dog share water with other dogs you don’t know.
- Isolate infected dogs from other other pets: Keep dogs with coccidia away from other pets, and thoroughly clean any shared areas.
- Disinfect areas with chlorine bleach or steam: Coccidia are resistant to many disinfectants, so be sure to use diluted bleach and steam if your dog is infected.
- Take your dog to the vet for frequent checkups: Routinely taking your dog to the vet will help ensure infections and other problems aren’t left untreated.
Another way you can help your dog when they’re sick is investing in dog insurance. MetLife Pet Insurance1 could help cover the cost of diagnosing and treating your dog for parasitic infections like coccidiosis.2 Want to learn more? Get started today with a free quote from MetLife, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award in the 2023 Pet Independent Innovation Awards Program.