Coccidiosis & Giardia in Dogs
What is Coccidiosis?
Coccidia are tiny microscopic spore forming parasites found in soil, faecal matter as well as contaminated food. This parasite causes a disease known as Coccidiosis which infects the intestinal wall in puppies, sick or stressed dogs. Dogs can carry the parasite without showing any symptoms however, symptoms may occur when the dogs’ immune system has been compromised.
The most common symptom of Coccidiosis is a watery, mucous like diarrhoea in dogs and in severe cases of Coccidiosis; blood can also be present in the faeces.
Stress – moving home, travel and weather changes as well as being in an environment with other infected animals are the most common causes of this parasitic infection to develop. Due to the disease being transmittable through faecal matter, puppies generally contract the parasites through direct or indirect contact with their mothers’ faeces. As the parasites are microscopic spores, it is easily spread and almost impossible to kill. Seemingly healthy puppies often come down with a case of Coccidiosis right after they go home with their new owners even though they did not show symptoms previously.
A faecal examination is the most effective method to positively diagnose the disease as the Coccidium parasite is readily visible under a microscope. There are also blood tests that can be done and are quite helpful in diagnosing the disease.
Treatment & Prognosis
If the diagnosis is positive for Coccidiosis, a sulpha-based antibiotic will more than likely be dispensed which is effective by either attacking the microorganism causing the infection, or by inhibiting the growth of the microorganism. Depending on the severity of the infection dogs often become dehydrated and will need to be hydrated intravenously – through the vein. Majority of dogs will recover fully through the administration of proper antibiotics which will help a dog’s body rebuild its own resistance to the organism.
As Coccidiosis is spread through faecal matter, high standards of hygiene are important. Pick up faeces immediately as this will prevent flies and insects from sitting on the stools and spreading the parasite spores. Clean the dogs’ toys and bowls with boiling water and select the ‘HOT’ option on your washing machine to wash the bedding along with bleach.
What is Giardiasis?
Giardiasis is an intestinal infection caused by the protozoan parasite Giardia. Dogs contract this infection by ingesting another animal’s faecal matter, drinking contaminated water or from direct or indirect contact with shedding infected offspring/cysts.
Soft, frothy and greasy diarrhoea which can be mild to explosive with an awful odour or excessive mucus is the first obvious sign of Giardia. Dogs can experience abdominal discomfort, vomiting and nausea along with gas and loss of appetite. Symptoms are more visible in younger dogs than older and they can be sudden, temporary, non-continuous or on going.
The most common cause of this parasitic infection is the ingestion of infected faecal matter as the cysts are shed in animal faeces. The most common transmission of the parasite is actually waterborne as the parasite prefers a cool and moist environment. This preferred habitat allows the parasite to spread quickly which is very common at dog parks with large water areas for dogs to swim in as well as faeces not being picked up by dog owners.
Often faecal smears are performed via a rectal swab. Finding the parasite or its cysts by examining smears of fresh stool under a microscope is an effective way of diagnosis. Occasionally faecal floatation is performed which involves mixing a fresh stool sample with zinc sulphate or another special substance. The mixture is then spun down in a centrifuge so that the cyst forms to float to the surface of a test tube. The top part of the sample is then examined under a microscope. This is usually done several times over a series of days and only performed if the faecal swab testing is inconclusive.
Treatment & Prognosis
Treatment for Giardia can be done in the comfort of your home with prescribed antibiotics as well as a grooming schedule with specific shampoo such as F10 Germicidal Barrier Shampoo. Shampooing the dog along with administration of meds reduces the risk of repeated infection and removes the parasite from your dogs’ body. Follow up faecal examinations are advised by the veterinarian to confirm the infection has been removed to prevent a relapse as this is dilapidating to the animals health. The prognosis for Giardia is good and easily treatable.
It is important to avoid areas where animal faeces are present near water. Unhygienic dog parks with large water areas are typically the most infectious. Confined areas such as boarding kennels that allow more than one dog to interact with each other, avoid areas with stagnant water as well uncontrolled puppy training classes.