Diarrhea can be a painful and frustrating condition. Diarrhea is not something you want to experience. Dog diarrhea can be caused by many things, including stress, sudden diet changes, food allergy and inflammatory bowel disease. Some intestinal parasites are worms while others are protozoans.
Protozoans can be described as single-cell microscopic organisms. These organisms can live in any environment. Parasites are organisms that infect a host, causing disease.
Coccidia, and Giardia are the most common protozoan parasites in dogs. These parasites can cause diarrhea in dogs’ intestinal tracts. These parasites are highly contagious and difficult to eradicate from the environment. These diseases can be transmitted to dogs by their owners. Dog owners need to know how to prevent it.
COCCIDIA IN DOGS
Coccidia are also known as Isospora. There are several species, but only four of them infect dogs. Isospora protozoans can only infect certain species of animals. For example, those that infect dogs only infect dogs and those that infect poultry only infect poultry. Coccidiosis in dogs (an infection with Coccidia in dogs) is not considered a zoonotic condition. This means that you or your family are not at risk if your dog is infected. Your dog will not be infected if he is around other animals.
How does it spread? Dogs with the infection pass the oocysts to their stool. These oocysts can be infectious if they are kept in favorable conditions (temperatures between 70 and 100 degrees F, high humidity) and undergo sporulation. Sporulation can occur as soon as the oocysts are passed. In this case, your dog will become infected by ingesting sporulated Oocysts.
Your dog doesn’t have to eat poop, but it does not necessarily mean that he has to inhale it. This can occur when your dog sniffs out poop or infected areas and then licks it. Your dog can get Coccidia by walking through infected areas, licking their feet, eating infected mice, or swallowing sporulated insects.
Staff members believed that the Great Dane and her puppies’ low body weight were due to inadequate feeding. After several days, however, it became apparent that all of the family suffered from persistent diarrhea. Further tests revealed that the mother and her babies had been infected by Giardia as well as Coccidia. The infections were treated twice, but they eventually cleared.
Diarrhea is the most common sign of clinically ill dogs. Some dogs may be able to manage the parasitic infection themselves without treatment. These dogs are those that tolerate hamburgers and rice. Treatment is necessary for most dogs to get rid of the diarrhea.
The most affected are often young puppies, stressed dogs, and debilitated or immuno-compromised dogs. Coccidiosis can be asymptomatic in dogs that don’t have symptoms. It is important to check your dog’s stool regularly for Coccidia infections. This will allow you to treat it before it becomes worse. The prevention of environmental contamination and the spread of Coccidia infection by treating oocyst-shedding in asymptomatic dogs is also important.
Coccidiosis can be diagnosed using a test that uses a stool sample, called a zinc sulfurate fecal flotation with centrifugation. This test identifies the oocysts. It is usually easy to diagnose. However, there is always a possibility that symptoms could occur even before the oocysts have begun to shed. If your dog has diarrhea but still shows symptoms, submit another sample for analysis.
Coccidiosis is usually treated in a veterinary clinic with a prescription medication called Sulfadimethoxine. (Albon, Zoetis). The medication is called “coccidiostatic”, meaning it doesn’t kill protozoa. It just stops their reproduction. This slows down the spread of the disease and gives the dog’s immune system more time to heal. The treatment is given daily, usually for a period of five to twenty days. To confirm that the infection is gone, a fecal test should again be performed within one to two weeks.
Coccidiocidal medications (those that kill Coccidia), are often used in horses, poultry, or livestock. These drugs are not FDA-approved to be used in dogs. This is why the most common coccidiostatic drug is sulfadimethoxine.
The FDA allows veterinarians to prescribe drugs that are not approved for dogs by the FDA. This is called “off-label” and “extra-label usage” of approved medications. The two coccidiocidal drugs most often prescribed off-label for treatment of Coccidia in dogs are ponazuril (Marquis, Boehringer-Ingelheim) and toltrazuril (Baycox, Bayer). These drugs are usually reserved for shelter or kennel situations where Coccidia can thrive and it is nearly impossible to eradicate.
Prevention: It is important to remove feces immediately in order to reduce the risk of environmental contamination. It is important to remove all fecal matter from an environment that has been infected. To remove small particles, scrub surfaces well. High-heat steam cleaning can be used to clean surfaces. This is the best way to get rid of oocysts which are resistant to bleach and most disinfectants.
GIARDIA IN DOGS
Although the protozoan parasite Giardia shares many characteristics with Coccidia’s, there are important differences.
They are both parasitic and free-living. Both are contagious and can be passed from one animal to another through the feces. They are highly prevalent in shelter and kennel situations, particularly when there is overcrowding. Both can cause diarrhea in dogs with clinically ill conditions. Both can cause severe clinical disease in dogs that are young, weak, or immunocompromised. Infected dogs may not show symptoms and can go untreated.
Giardia can infect humans, too. Giardia can be shed as cysts or trophozoites, which is the activated, feeding phase of the Giardia cycle. They are both immediately infective and do not need to transform in the environment, like Coccidia Oocysts. Giardia is usually transmitted to dogs by eating fecal-contaminated food, water, or soil.
Giardiasis can be diagnosed by zinc sulfate flotation with centrifugation, but it is less difficult than coccidiosis. The Giardia cysts only occasionally shed. To maximize the chances of finding cysts, it is recommended that you submit three different samples from different days when performing this test.
An enzyme-linked immunosorbent test (ELISA), is the best way to test for Giardia. The ELISA test can detect Giardia’s actual presence in the intestines of trophozoites, which is the activated feeding stage in the Giardia cycle.
GIARDIASIS – HOW TO MANAGE IT
It is important to bathe your dog’s back in order to treat his Giardia infection. The cysts and trophozoites in his feces can be infective. He can be reinfected if he likes his anus. Photo credit: Markus Gann/ Dreamstime.com
Giardiasis treatment is not geared toward total elimination. It only addresses clinical signs. It can be very difficult or impossible to eliminate this organism from the intestines. Routine testing of asymptomatic dogs is recommended for coccidiosis. However, routine testing is not useful for giardiasis. However, any dog suffering from diarrhea should be tested.
Giardia can sometimes resist treatment. This frustrates both the pet owner as well as the veterinarian. Sometimes, repeat treatments or combining drugs may be necessary. The first treatment involves a daily five-day course of anti-parasitic medication, fenbendazole. I will continue to treat diarrhea with fenbendazole and metronidazole for 10 days if it persists. Probiotics can be added to the treatment, which will help the body fight the diarrhea.
A bath at the end of treatment for Giardia infection is an important part of the treatment. This should be done with special attention to the anal areas. Remember that the cysts or trophozoites can be infective depending on how they are passed. Your dog will quickly reinfect himself if there are any on the anus or hair around it.
It is not recommended to test after treatment has been completed. This is because it can be confusing and hard to interpret. Giardia treatment aims to resolve the diarrhea. Many dogs will test positive even after treatment is complete. These dogs do not require re-treatment. Some dogs can remain subclinical carriers for life. These dogs will remain subclinical carriers for life, despite all your efforts.
Testing can be useful if a Giardia positive dog still has diarrhea after treatment. If the dog has a positive ELISA and cysts are found on the floatation test it is possible that Giardia may still be the cause. Re-treatment is recommended. A negative ELISA test would also be useful. If the test is negative, it means that Giardia is not causing the persistent diarrhea. It’s time for you to check for other issues such as inflammatory bowel disease and food allergy.
You can prevent Giardia by taking immediate action to dispose of dog feces and bathing soiled dogs. Good hygiene and frequent hand washing are recommended to minimize the dangers to human health from Giardia.
Similar to Coccidia, steam cleaning and deep cleaning are the best ways to get rid of cysts. Giardia cysts may be more sensitive to disinfectants, especially ammonium-based compounds. Bleach is not an effective disinfectant.
A vaccine against Giardia may have been mentioned to you at one point. It did not work and is no longer available.
If your dog has persistent diarrhea after being in a dog park, boarding kennel or dog park that is shared with other dogs, you should see your veterinarian immediately. Be sure to bring a fresh sample of his feces. Your veterinarian and you should be able quickly to get your dog feeling better if the protozoan parasites Coccidia and Giardia have been diagnosed.
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