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Understanding Coccidia

Maren von der Heyde National Breed Supervisor

November 2011

Coccidia is a term for several species of faecally transmitted protozoan parasites that invade and damage the lining of the intestinal wall.

Isospora Canis

Isospora Ohioensis

Isospora Neorivolta

Isospora Burrowsi

Four species of Coccidia are responsible for Coccidia infections in dogs

Coccidia undergo several biological transformations

Immature Oocysts are a hardy environmentally resistant form of the Coccidia parasite. Oocysts are excreted in faeces. They can lie dormant in the environment for many months. Oocyst need to mature before they are infectious.

The oocyst matures in the environment. The cells inside the oocyst divide and differentiate

many times.
Warm, moist conditions are optimal for oocyst

maturation. When an oocyst is mature 8 active

sporozoites form within the oocyst. This maturation process takes at least 8 hours

Sporozoites are released when a mature oocyst is

ingested. Sporozoites invade, replicate asexually & destroy the epithelial cells of the small intestine and colon.

Coccidians are only able to undergo a fixed

number of cell-invasion and asexual replication repetitions.

Following the final asexual replication phase, the sporozoites differentiate: into either a single, very large, female macrogamete or subdivides itself into many, much smaller, male microgametes.

Microgametes are much like human sperm cells and, once mature, they exit their host cell and swim over to other intestinal cells, hunting for mature

female macrogametes.

The male microgamete enters the intestinal cell holding the female macrogamete and

fertilizes it.
This sexual reproduction results in the formation of a zygote.

A rigid wall forms around the fertilised zygote and, once this wall is firm enough to withstand the harsh world outside of the intestinal tract, it erupts from the intestinal cell

and gets shed into the faeces as an oocyst.

From the time of ingestion of the mature

oocysts it takes 4-11 days for the first

oocysts to appear in the faeces

Mature oocysts release eight active Sporozoites

Oocyst matures before ingested

Sporozoites invade the epithelial cells of the small intestine and colon where they replicate asexually

Gametes combine to form an immature oocyst which is expelled in faeces

Sporozoites differentiate into female macrogametes and male microgametes

Coccidia is transmitted when a dog ingests a mature oocyst. Oocysts are expelled in faeces. There are several common transmission routes:

The most common transmission route is through the direct ingestion of faeces or the ingestion of food, water or vegetation that has been contaminated by faeces

Dogs can ingest oocysts when they lick anything that has been in contact with faeces

Dogs spread oocysts onto their fur through rolling in or lying on ground soiled by faeces. They then lick their bodies, ingesting the oocysts.

Transport Hosts:
While Coccidia species only infect specific hosts, it is possible for the canine specific Isospora to be transmitted via transport hosts such as rats, birds or lizards

1. A transport host eats dog faeces or vegetation soiled

by dog faeces

1. Once ingested the Isospora oocyst hatches & migrates in the host body
2. Since Coccidia is species specific. The host is typically asymptomatic. The Coccida lies dormant within the transport host

3. If a dog eats this host, he/she will now have Coccidia in their system

Many adult dogs are carriers of Coccidia but show no symptoms of infection
Carriers do however expel oocysts in their faeces. These oocysts go on to infect other dogs especially puppies.

The immune system of adult dogs keep the Coccidia population under control. When under stress or if immunocompromised Coccidia carriers may develop symptoms

Mother to puppy:
Coccidia is NOT spread via a lactating bitchs milk to her puppies

Coccidia invade the surface layer of cells lining the wall of the intestines. Coccidia reproduce rapidly inside these cells causing them to burst & die. This process, causes massive amounts of intestinal cell damage, resulting in Coccidiosis

Diarrhea: watery stools,

blood may be present In severe cases, weight

loss, dehydration, &

permanent damage to the small intestine

Vomitting may
occasionally be observed

In the upcoming slides a highly magnified view of the damage caused by Coccidia to

the villi of the small intestine will be shown

These little matchstick like projections are the VILLI of the small intestine. The villi line the surface of the small intestine and are
responsible for the absorption of nutrients

Day 1: Healthy intestinal villi

Day 5: Note the damage to the villi

Day 10: Significant damage due to secondary

infections as a result of Coccidia

Puppy immune
systems are not yet fully developed. As

such, Coccidiosis is
more common and serious in puppies

Puppies can suffer several

complications as a result of
Coccidia: severe dehydration, blood loss, secondary

infection They may even DIE without

prompt & proper therapy.

A faecal exam is necessary to diagnose Coccidia.

Different faecal examination methods can be used.

Discuss the best diagnostic

methodology with your Veterinarian!

It should be noted that oocysts are shed intermittently & thus multiple faecal examinations may be necessary for a conclusive result

This information is purely educational & does not constitute medical advice. Before adopting ANY medical treatments please consult with your Veterinarian!

Most antibiotics and anti-coccidial drugs used in Coccidia therapy do not destroy all of the coccidial organisms.

Most of them simply kill enough of the organisms that they won't decimate the bowel, thereby buying time for the immune system response to kick in and establish a host-parasite balance and neutrality.

Diclazuril, trade name Vecoxan and Coximed has proven effective in treating Coccidiosis in dogs It should be noted that both Vecoxan and Coximed are not registered for use in dogs. Therefore owners treat their dogs with these drugs at their own risk.

Discuss the appropriate treatment with your Vet!

Vecoxan has a dosage of 2.5mg of Diclazuril/tablet whereas and Coximed has 5mg/tablet

In my experience Coximed has proven far more effective and efficient in treating Coccidiosis and is my preferred medication

At 4 weeks puppies and dam to be treated with Diclazuril

Diclazuril to be repeated in 7 or 10 days depending on the severity of infection

After 10 days a faecal flotation must be done,

If negative: Diclazuril treatment to be repeated every 10 days until puppies leave

If positive: Diclazuril treatment to be repeated every 7 days until puppies leave

It is advisable to perform another faecal flotation approximately 3 days before puppies leave to their new homes

Moving to a new home is stressful for a puppy. This faecal floatation helps ensure that puppies are healthy and minimises the risk of Coccidiosis as a result of stress

While it is impossible to eliminate the risk of

Coccidia completely, measures can be taken to help ensure the health & wellbeing of your dogs

Remove ALL faeces from the dogs environment as soon and as often as possible. Isospora oocysts need at least 8 hours to mature and develop into an infective form. Significant control of the parasite can be achieved simply by cleaning out faeces regularly (two to three times daily), prior to the maturation of the oocysts.

Clean water and food bowls Dog food and water bowls should not be placed in a position where they can be unintentionally contaminated with fecal material.

Elevating bowls and placing bowls out of high traffic areas helps minimise the risk of contamination

Thoroughly disinfect Coccidia oocysts are extremely hardy and environmentally resistant. As such it is best to clean & disinfect your kennels and trailers with quaternary ammonia based disinfectants such as F10, at least once a week.

Keep dogs clean to prevent the risk of any fecal contamination via fur

Bath the dam 3 days before whelping with F10 Shampoo Bath her again immediately after whelping and then every second day until the bleeding stops

Whelping box must be disinfected before and after whelping. The whelping box should be throughly cleaned and disinfected at regular intervals post whelping

Wash puppies regularly (every morning if possible) before feeding with F10 shampoo, especially the bums and paws After feeding, clean puppy paws again in case they stepped into their food bowl

Ensure your dog has a well balanced diet, which is high in fibre. This will help to ensure healthy digestion & prevent Coccidia infection. Good overall health will also ensure that a dogs own immune system can fight parasitic threats

While the risk is low it is possible for dogs to contract Coccidia through the consumption of raw meat (Remember Coccidia can be transmitted by transport hosts). Be cautious and vigilant if feeding dogs a raw diet.

1. E. Ward, DVM, Coccidia, viewed 10 November 2011, 2. Pet, Dog Coccidia, viewed 10 November 2011, 3. Science Photo library, Small intestine microvilli, SEM, viewed 10 November 2011, 4. S. OMeara DVM, Veterinary Advice Online - Coccidia Infection. Coccidiosis in dogs, cats and other animals., viewed 10 November 2011, 5. H.C. Mundt, No olvide la coccidiosis, BayerVet Venezuela, viewed 10 November 2011, 6. H.C. Mundt, No olvide la coccidiosis, BayerVet Venezuela, viewed 10 November 2011, 7. H.C. Mundt, No olvide la coccidiosis, BayerVet Venezuela, viewed 10 November 2011,

in consultation with the Parasitological Society of Southern Africa

And Emeritus Professor Department of Veterinary Tropical diseases Joop Boomker