Treatment, and Prevention
What is Coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease that
affects several different animal species including canines and
humans. Coccidia is one of the most prevalent protozoal
infections in North American animals, second only to giardia.
Eimeria and Isospora are the two
genera that are often referred
as "coccidia." These two genera contain a large number of
species that infect a variety of animals throughout the world. The
diseases caused by these microscopic protozoal parasites are
referred to collectively as coccidiosis, and they vary
tremendously in virulence. Some species cause diseases that result
in mild symptoms that might go unnoticed (i.e., mild diarrhea) and
eventually disappear, while other species cause highly virulent
infections that are rapidly fatal. The causative agent is a
protozoan that has the ability to multiply rapidly. The major damage
is due to the rapid multiplication of the parasite in the intestinal
wall, and the subsequent rupture of the cells of the intestinal
lining. Several stages of multiplication occur before the final
stage, the oocyst, is passed in the feces. Oocysts are extremely
resistant to environmental stress and are difficult to completely
remove from the environment. Oocysts are frequent contaminants of
feed and water and when the sporulated oocysts are ingested by other
animals they start the life cycle over in the new host.
Life Cycle of Coccidia
The life cycles of both genera of coccidia are similar.
A host is infected when it ingests oocysts that have been passed in
the feces of another host. The oocyst encysts in the host's small
intestine, and the sporozoites contained within the oocyst are
liberated. The sporozoites penetrate the cells of the host's small
intestine and reproduce asexually. Each generation of asexual
reproduction produces multiple merozoites; the merozoites are
liberated from the cell and infect new cells. It is this stage of
the infection that can result in destruction of massive numbers of
cells in the host's small intestine and, ultimately, lead to the
host's death. Some of the merozoites that enter the host's cells
transform into gametocytes. The gametocytes transform into gametes,
the gametes fuse, and the resulting zygote begins to develop into an
oocyst. The developing oocyst escapes from the host's cell, and it
is passed in the host's feces. Typically, when the oocyst is passed
in the feces, it is not infective because it does not contain
sporozoites; this is an unsporulated oocyst. After several days (or
weeks, depending on the species) outside of the host's body, the
oocyst completes development and sporozoites are found within; this
is a sporulated oocyst, and it is infective to the next host (view
diagram of the life cycle).
Clinical signs of coccidiosis usually are present
or shortly following stress such as weather changes; weaning;
overcrowding; long automobile or plane rides; relocation to a new
home and new owners; and/or unsanitary conditions. Symptoms or signs
of coccidiosis will depend on the state of the disease at the
time of observation. In general, coccidiosis affects the
intestinal tract and symptoms are associated with it. In mild cases,
only a watery diarrhea may be present, and if blood is present in
the feces, it is only in small amounts. Severely affected animals
may have a thin, watery feces with considerable amounts of
intestinal mucosa and blood. Straining usually is evident, rapid
dehydration, weight loss and anorexia (off feed) also may be
clinically visible. One of the most prevalent canine coccidia
is S. tenella and during autopsies of dead animals appears
as microscopic muscle cysts in the host animal. Oocysts in the feces
of dogs are also microscopic in size and can only be positively
identified through lab tests or direct observation under a
"Nervous coccidiosis" is a nervous system
condition associated with coccidial infection. Signs are
consistent with central nervous system involvement, and include
muscle tremors, convulsions and other central nervous system
symptoms. A consistent sign in "nervous cocci" dogs is that
stimulation of any type seems to trigger the symptoms.
Death may follow the acute disease either directly or
from secondary diseases such as pneumonia. Animals that survive for
10 to 14 days may recover, however, permanent damage may occur.
Research has indicated that canines may experience reduced food
consumption for up to 13 weeks following clinical infection.
Diagnosis usually is obvious but confusion does exist apparently
normal animals can also have oocysts present in their feces.
Diarrhea may be present in the animal before the oocysts can be
found, therefore, a confirmed laboratory diagnosis may not always be
possible. Laboratory findings should be correlated with clinical
signs for a diagnosis.
The susceptibility of animals to this disease varies. The
ingestion of oocysts may not produce the disease; some animals
constantly carry them without being affected. Recovered animals
develop immunity and seem to be partially resistant to reinfection.
Coccidiosis is frequently referred to as an
opportunist a disease that will develop when other stress factors
are present. For example, the highest incidence of coccidiosis
is in the first 21 days after a dog has changed owners and moved to
a new residence. If a normal animal carries oocysts, it is
relatively easy for rapid development when the conditions are right
adverse weather, shipping, dog food changes, new owners, new
residence, and other stresses are important.
In case of a confirmed outbreak of coccidiosis in
a kennel full of Beagles, the following steps should be started
1. Separate the sick animals from the healthy ones.
2. Treat sick animals with effective medications.
3. Medicate all the dogs in the kennel or home, as the other animals
are likely infected.
General information on coccidiosis in canines:
1. Coccidiosis is an opportunistic disease it generally
affects stressed animals.
2. Kennel conditions provide ideal circumstances for an outbreak.
3. In most confinement situations, prevention with
sulfadimethoxine drug such as Albonฎ is recommended.
4. Mass treatment of all dogs in an entire kennel is usually the
only effective method.
5. Sick animals should be treated as soon as possible and isolated
from the healthy animals.
6. Have your veterinarian confirm positive diagnosis of the
coccidia protozoa in your dog's feces through the use of lab
tests or positive identification through direct observation under a
How can I be
sure my dog has Coccidia?
Diagnosing coccidia is not easy. Diagnosis can be
done in one of two ways: via fecal sample by a Vet or via educated
evaluation of clinical findings by the breeder/owner or the Vet. Via
fecal sample is not straightforward. Even when a flare is at it's
worst, the oocysts may not be shedding in every single stool.
Therefore, a negative report does not rule out coccidia.
The most thorough way to assess is to collect a sample from every
single stool produced for 48 to 72 hours and have a Vet examine it.
How can infection be treated?
Treatment of infected animals is required. Individual
treatment should be used when possible, however, medications are
available for entire kennel applications. The actual coccidiosis
problem is critical and in addition, dehydration and loss of
appetite must be treated. Drug selection should be handled with
regards to the number of animals infected and the type of
application. Sulfas and antibiotics for secondary bacterial
infections are available for use. Treatment and prevention are most
effective when started early. Most kennels need to segregate and
medicate new dogs at the time of arrival. Kennel owners can also
reduce exposure by reducing stress, such as overcrowding and poor
Infection may be treated using a
sulfadimethoxine drug such as Albonฎ, Bactrovetฎ, or Tribrissenฎ.
Data regarding acute and chronic toxicities of sulfadimethoxine
indicate the drug is very safe. The LD50 in mice is greater than 2
g/kg of body weight when administered intraperitoneally and greater
than 16 g/kg when administered orally. In dogs receiving massive
single oral doses of 3.2 g/kg of body weight, diarrhea was the only
adverse effect observed. Dogs given 160 mg/kg of body weight orally
daily for 13 weeks showed no signs of toxicity.
Treatment may be initiated by a Vet with an Albon
Injection 40% (100-mL multiple-dose vials) to obtain effective blood
levels almost immediately or to facilitate treatment of the
fractious animal. With the Albon Injection 40%, each mL contains 400
mg sulfadimethoxine compounded with 20% propylene glycol, 1% benzyl
alcohol, 0.1 mg disodium edetate, 1 mg sodium formaldehyde
sulfoxylate, and pH adjusted with sodium hydroxide. Albon is also
available in liquid form: Albon Oral Suspension 5%: 2- and 16-oz
bottles; each tsp (5 mL) contains 250 mg sulfadimethoxine in a
custard-flavored carrier. Length of treatment
with any sulfadimethoxine drug depends on the clinical response. In
most cases treatment for 5 days is adequate. Treatment should be
continued until the animal is asymptomatic for at least 48 hours.
The cost to effectively keep coccidiosis infestations out of
your Beagles may be entirely too much if you take your dog(s) to a
Veterinarian. As already stated, a Vet will charge you for an office
visit plus the cost of canine dosage sulfadimethoxine pills
(Tablets-125 mg, 250 mg, and 500 mg),
Albon Injection 40%, and/or Albon Oral Suspension 5%.
The cost for the Veterinarian treatments along with the cost of the
office visits will add up to a lot of money per year, especially if
you have more than one Beagle. Once again, I want to remind everyone
that I am not a Veterinarian, but rather a long time Beagle kennel
owner. I'll tell you what I use and do, you can use your own
judgment whether you want to follow in my footsteps. This article is
presented only as a documentation of how I treat coccidiosis
infestations in the Beagles that I own at a fraction of the cost
that a Veterinarian will charge you.
What I do is buy the Sulfadimethoxine 12
1/2% solution (generic Albon) from Lambert Vet Supply
without a prescription and for a lot less money.
Active ingredients: Each fluid ounce contains 3.75 grams
Sulfadimethoxine solubilized with sodium hydroxide. I buy the
one-gallon size jug of the generic brand of Albon which is the
Sulfadimethoxine 12 1/2% solution for $40.75 (accurate price
as of 04/20/2008) per gallon. Simply click on either
picture to the left of this paragraph and order a gallon jug of
either the Sulfadimethoxine (generic Albon) or the name brand Albon
today. (NOTE: Lambert Vet
Supply is not a sponsor of BEAGLES UNLIMITED and we do not make a
cent by referring them to you. They do have the absolute lowest
prices available to help all of us keep our Beagles in great health
while we save hundreds of dollars each and every year.
Here is more information about
Dyne High Calorie Supplement
This gallon jug of liquid
Sulfadimethoxine is enough antibiotic to medicate a huge kennel full
of Beagles for several months or even years. If you have more than
one Beagle to treat with the Sulfadimethoxine
drug for a coccidiosis outbreak, I highly recommend you
follow in my footsteps and buy and use the gallon size jug of this
medication as well as another product described below and then you
can make your own 5% Albon solution just like you get from the Vet.
I also purchase a gallon jug of Dyne
High Calorie Supplement, which is a liquid nutritional supplement,
from Lambert Vet Supply. I buy the one-gallon size jug for $33.50
each (accurate price as of 04/20/2008). Simply
click on the picture of Dyne High Calorie Supplement to the right of
this paragraph and order a gallon jug today. This product is
formulated to provide a nutrient dense liquid diet with essential
vitamins and has a high caloric value. This product expedites the
rate of recovery of weak or sick animals. It also may be fed as is
or diluted with milk for animals unable to eat solid foods.
Then what I do next is I mix 5 ounces of
Dyne High Calorie Supplement with 4 ounces of the Sulfadimethoxine
12 1/2% solution discussed above. This gives me a fairly palatable
mixture of the 5% Albon (Rx) at a 85% or higher savings without the
required prescription or the expense of a Vet office visit. I know
many breeders that are paying $75 or more per pint for the 5% Albon
(Rx) solution that they get from their Vet. This will give you
approximately 2-gallons of the 5% Albon (RX) for only $75 rather
than only 1-pint that a Vet will sell you for $75 -- you figure up
the savings! Once you have this 5% Albon solution mix, each
teaspoonful (5 mL) will contain 250 mg of Sulfadimethoxine. Beagles
should receive 1 teaspoonful of this 5% Albon Oral Suspension
mixture per 10 lb of body weight (25 mg/lb or 55 mg/kg) as an
initial dose, followed by ฝ teaspoonful per 10 lb of body weight
(12.5 mg/lb or 27.5 mg/kg) every 24 hours thereafter. I recommend
you give this treatment for a total of 10 days. The
medication may be administered in food or water, given as a drench
orally. I give each dog its own food and medicine in its own feed
dish to make sure each dog is getting the proper amount of food and
medicine or at least use it as a drench to be given orally to each
dog/puppy. This Sulfadimethoxine 12 1/2% solution mixed with the
Dyne High Calorie Supplement will save you hundreds of dollars a
year. I urge all kennels to keep a gallon of each handy. This
Sulfadimethoxine 5% solution mix has a wide margin for safety, is
very easy to administer, and absolutely works miracles on getting
rid of coccidiosis in your hounds. Since coccidiosis
is so easily spread from one Beagle to the next, I highly recommend
all hounds get a full treatment even if only one hound shows
symptoms -- better to be safe than sorry.
This is the treatment that I use in my kennel and you can also check
out the article
Giardiasis: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention to learn more
about the other common protozoal infection called giardiasis.
It is very unlikely to eliminate 100% of the coccidiosis
infection in all dogs. Adaptations that may be made to try to
improve the success rate of a treatment regime include extending the
duration and dose of the treatment. Care must obviously be taken
with this approach to make sure that an adequate safety margin is
always maintained. Another approach is to retreat after an interval
of one week of completion of the initial treatment. Alternatively,
repeat fecal samples may be collected one week after the treatment
and dogs which are still passing oocysts can be identified and
treated. It should be recognized that, when treating a large number
of dogs, there may still be one or two dogs that remain as carriers
of infection that will act as a potential source for reintroducing
the infection into your entire kennel.
No matter which treatment you choose to
utilize (Vet Rx or over-the-counter cattle drugs), the simple fact
is that it may not kill all of the coccidia oocysts. A
certain number of them can burrow into the lining of the intestines
and go dormant. They can stay dormant for years. Due to the hard
shell protecting the oocysts, it is almost impossible to kill them
when they are encysted in the lining of the intestines. Therefore,
during times of stress, the oocysts may re-activate and start to
reproduce, causing another outbreak of coccidiosis in your
Beagle or Beagle kennel. The amount of stress needed to cause a
flare seems to be highly variable with different dogs and dog
breeds. Beagles are one of the hardiest breeds since they were
developed as hunting hounds.
Important Note: A healthy dog may have been infected
years before and never have shown any symptoms (asymptomatic
carrier). They may occasionally shed very low numbers of oocysts in
stools--evaluating every stool (the WHOLE stool) for something like
six months is supposed to be the conclusive way to rule out an
asymptomatic carrier (someone did this with a couple dogs for a
study). This would cost literally thousands of dollars! Not exactly
a practical way to test. Coccidiosis and giardiasis
are both very common protozoal infestations that have the exact same
clinical symptoms; therefore, I recommend that both diseases get
treated one right after the other: coccidiosis for 10 days
and giardiasis for 5 days if using Metronidazole or 3 days if
using Fenbendazole. Once again, I treat coccidiosis with
Sulfadimethoxine (Albon), and giardiasis with Metronidazole (Flagyl)
or Fenbendazole (Safe-Guard).
How to eliminate coccidia from your kennel or home?
Once infection is present in a kennel, control may
be approached in two ways:-
1. identification, isolation and treatment of infected dogs.
2. mass treatment of all dogs.
Option 1 is only practical where a few
dogs in a discrete area have been identified as being infected and
where complete isolation is feasible, either within their own block
or in a specific isolation block. Such isolation includes
segregation of exercise areas and these animals should be fed and
cleaned after all others on the premises, preferably using separate
cleaning and feeding equipment and separate staff if possible.
Treatment of all dogs should commence on the same day when option 2
Thorough cleaning of all kennel areas
where infected dogs have access is essential. Once organic debris
has been removed, thorough disinfection will help to further reduce
the level of environmental contamination and reduce the risk of dogs
becoming re-infected after the completion of treatment.
Disinfectants containing quaternary ammonium compounds have been
found to kill Coccidia oocysts at the manufacturers'
recommended dilutions (dilutions of one disinfectant up to 1:704
were found to be effective at both low and high environmental
temperatures). I disinfect all my kennels twice per month by washing
everything down with a mixture consisting of 8 ounces of Clorox
bleach per gallon of water. Make sure you let it set at least 20
minutes, rinse thoroughly, and then let it get completely dry before
letting your Beagles use the kennels again. Important Note: The
efficacy of killing is increased by prolonged contact time,
therefore disinfectant solution should be left for 20 minutes to
half an hour before being rinsed off kennel or run surfaces. Since
disinfection of grass runs is impossible, such area should be
regarded as contaminated for at least a month after infected dogs
last had access.
Introduction of new dogs into the infected
area should be avoided until the period of treatment and fecal
sample checking has been completed. It should not be overlooked that
some of the infected dogs may continue to excrete low numbers of
oocysts even after all treatments and examinations have been
completed. It is therefore important that rigorous disinfection is
maintained and a careful check is kept on the condition of all
treated and introduced animals.
The following are recommendations for eliminating
coccidia from kennels and homes:
- treat all dogs with sulfadimethoxine for 10
- disinfect kennel areas, etc, with
quaternary ammonium disinfectants which are effective in
inactivating coccidia oocysts
- bathe dogs with shampoo to remove all fecal
matter, rinse with water
- rinse dogs with quaternary ammonium
disinfectants, then water
- allow kennels to dry thoroughly for several
- retreat with sulfadimethoxine for 7 days
- treat any new dogs with sulfadimethoxine
(e.g. Albon) for 10 days even if they test negative for coccidia
because it is so hard to detect in fecal tests
can infection be prevented?
It is very difficult to prevent the entry of an infection
that is known to be carried by a percentage of normal dogs into a
kennel. However, an initial period of isolation for all new entrants
into kennels, for perhaps ten days, would reduce the risk of an
infected dog spreading a large number of oocysts around the main
kennel area. All dogs could be observed and any infection present,
which in the case case of coccidia might be exacerbated by
the stress of entry in kennels, could be identified and treated
before entry into the main kennels.
Dogs should be prevented from access to foul water that
may contain large numbers of oocysts (e.g.: river-flooded paddocks).
Small numbers of oocysts may occasionally be present in the potable
water supply but the risk of this being a major source of infection
is small. It is best to use chlorinated water for your dogs drinking
water as much as possible. If you are using non-chlorinated water
from a well, lake, or stream, you need to chlorinate the water
yourself. To chlorinate drinking water: Use only liquid bleach that
contains 5.25% sodium hypochlorite as its only active ingredient -
no soap. Use a scant 4 drops of Clorox bleach per quart of water or
2 teaspoons per 10 gallons. As an alternate method of purification,
you can also boil all of your dog's drinking water. To make sure the
water is completely bacteria free, you need to bring the water to a
rapid boil for a minimum of five (5) minutes. Remember, Cool moist
conditions favor the survival of the organism; therefore, simply by
keeping everything clean, disinfected, and dry you will be getting a
lot further toward exterminating this nasty little one-celled
Remember, coccidiosis and giardiasis are
both very common protozoal infestations that have the exact same
clinical symptoms; therefore, I recommend that both protozoans get
treated one right after the other: coccidia for 10 days and then
giardia for 5 days if using Metronidazole or 3 days if using
Fenbendazole. Once again, I treat coccidiosis with
Sulfadimethoxine (Albon) and giardiasis with Metronidazole (Flagyl),
which is my 1st choice, or Fenbendazole (Safe-Guard), which is my