During the spring and summer of 1992, my dogs were experiencing recurring bouts of diarrhea. In May, my Siberian bitch whelped a litter of 6 puppies, who by the age of 3 weeks still had loose stools, which upon close examination appeared to be tinged with blood. Instant panic, Parvo, and off we go to the vets. However, the fecal indicated coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is a major parasitic infection which can often be mistaken for worm infestation. It is not caused by worms, but a tiny one-celled animal called coccidia, which invade the small intestine of young animals and destroy tissue as they multiply. Coccidiosis is a protozoan, which can be passed on by an animal eating the tissue of an infected animal, by swallowing eggs or larvae deposited in food by f lies or other insects, or by ingesting contaminated feces. Your dogs do not have to be "poop eaters" to catch coccidia. The dogs will start shedding infected "oocysts" in their stools within 5 - 10 days, and upon walking through infected feces and cleaning their paws they will become infected. Symptoms can include, lethargy, watery, mucuousy diarrhea, which can be blood-tinged, and weight loss. In severe cases the animal can quickly become dehydrated and blood tests may show a mild anaemia. It is imperative that proper treatment be provided. If the dog survives the primary infection without treatment, it can become a carrier for the disease. Suspected carriers must be treated and their quarters and runs thoroughly cleaned. The usual course of treatment is Sulpha drugs, (dosage is determined by weight) usually S- 125 for 21 days. Tribrissen is also used to treat small puppies. Coccidiosis is a self -limiting disease which takes 21 days to run its course. Treatment must be supplemented with good hygiene: scrub crates, pens, etc. with a very hot 5% sodium carbonate solution. The oocysts resist most disinfectants but steam will kill them on contact. A steam iron, similar to a travel iron can be purchased and used to steam the dog's beds, blankets etc. Coccidia thrive in damp living quarters. The weather up here last summer, lots of rain and little sunshine made the perfect breeding grounds for the coccidia. Kennel runs should be dry and clean, and receive sunlight part of each day. Shaded, moist ground, although more comfortable for the dogs, increase the survival of the oocysts and is not really a good location for your dog's living quarters. Oocysts can survive in the soil for 18 months or longer, warm, moist ground conditions enabling the longest survival. Freezing is lethal within one month.
Giardiasis is another intestinal protozoan parasite that is found in man and many species of animals including dogs and cats. It exists in two forms; a fragile trophozoite intestinal feeding phase, and a resistant encysted infective phase. The trophozoites are fragile, however the infective cyst stage can survive for several months. It is not affected by chlorination in water and also will withstand freezing. The symptoms are very similar to coccidiosis, however the stools are usually soft, mucousy, sometimes foamy, fatty and smell rancid. Dogs become infected by oral- fecal transmission. Once your dog has ingested the parasite, they will start to shed infective cysts in their stools within 5 - 16 days. This shedding can be intermittent for several months and it is usually extremely difficult to detect during a fecal test. If you suspect that the dog may have Giardiasis, take a fresh stool sample to your vet (because of the intermittent shedding, try doing 3 tests, every other day for 6 days.) and request that he do a SAF fecal test. The salt flotation techniques is the best test for finding the cysts. The trophozoites are shed to a degree in the feces, but to see them, the vet requires a fresh, wet preparation, stained with Lugot's iodine. Treatment is quite simple. A regime of Flagyl 25mg / kg twice a day for 7 days. In about 3 days the diarrhea should cease and the number of cysts being shed will be reduced by half. A second treatment in 20 days should completely eradicate the infection. Cysts are killed immediately with boiling water. A 10% ammonia solution also works well. (I cup of ammonia with 10 cups of boiling water). This solution can be applied to outdoor cement runs, crates, tiled floors etc. Ensure that the area is completely dry before allowing the dogs back in. Animals who recover from this, are more resistant to infection. Immune-deficient dogs can have a prolonged infection, and feeding a high quality, high protein diet is useful supportive therapy. At the present time, there is no vaccine available for Girardia.
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