Coccidia and Giardia

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If a dog gets diarrhea as a result of parasites, the most common causes are Coccidia or Giardia. Both will cause diarrhea, but each requires different medication.

Both Coccidia and Giardia are protozoan pathogens that cause the same types of symptoms, and both are contracted the fecal oral route. The only definitive way to distinguish the two is by examining a fecal sample under the microscope. Both are also very contagious. Coccidia is more dangerous to puppies your other pets may become infected from exposure to infected fecal matter but it is important to note that this is usually an infection of the young (i.e. the immature immune system tends to let the coccidia infection reach large numbers whereas the mature immune system probably will not.) In most cases, the infected new puppy or kitten does not infect the resident adult animal.

Giardia (Giardiasis)

The symptoms of Giardia are typical of several diseases, but if Fido has had contact with dirty (or potentially contaminated) water or with dogs showing similar signs, Giardiasis should at least be suspected.
Giardiasis is an intestinal infection that is caused by the protozoan parasite giardia, which is the most common intestinal parasite that is found in humans. Dogs develop the infection by ingesting infectious offspring (cysts) that are shed in another animal’s feces. The contamination can be from direct or indirect contact with the infected cysts. The organisms, once ingested, make their way into the intestine, often causing diarrhea. The treatment is typically performed on an outpatient basis with a good prognosis.
Like many disease organisms, Giardia mature in stages. Unlike many others, no time elapses between infestation with the dormant phase and activation of the disease. The cysts (the inactive form) are found in contaminated water and feces. Once ingested by the dog, the cysts open and discharge the mobile form known as the trophozoite, a pear-shaped critter with whip-like flagella that propel it through the intestine. If the dog is healthy, the trophozoites may live in the lower digestive tract for years. If the dog has an immature or overburdened immune system, the trophozoites continue to multiply by dividing and can cause the debilitating disease.

Symptoms of  Giardia:

Large populations of Giardia can interfere with the absorption of food and produce feces that are soft, light-colored, and greasy. Mucus from the large intestine may also indicate that the large intestine is irritated even though the colony of active protozoa remains in the small intestine. Blood tests appear normal with the possible exception of an increase in a type of white blood cells and mild anemia.

Diagnosis of Giardia:

Since diarrhea is a common symptom of intestinal infection, causes such as Salmonella and Campylobacter are generally ruled out before testing for Giardia is done. Direct microscopic inspection of feces is necessary to determine the presence of the protozoan. Examination of soft feces may reveal the active trophozoites, and cysts may be found in firm excrement.
The number of cysts can vary from day to day, so best chances of detecting this form of Giardia lies in collecting samples over three days for a fecal flotation test or conducting individual tests every two or three days until at least three tests have been done. A quicker test does exist, but it is more expensive and requires an experienced technician to run.

Treatment for Giardia and how it can be treated for less?

If it were me I would simply forget the testing and worm with Panacur wormer (info below). At this time nothing else works for well for Giardia, and Metronidazole and Flagyl only stops it for a short time, then it returns.

Giardia in dogs is almost impossible to find in a stool check so I recommend just automatically worming them with Panacure or Safeguard. If your vet insists on a test, make sure that you do not bring a stool from home, that tells me the vet does not know how to properly test for giardia. You need a fresh, warm stool so it is best to use a loop tool and take a sample from the dog. Even then, if the giardia cyst is not present, it will come up with a false negative.

There are several options of treatment , some with two- or three-day protocols and others needing seven-to-10 days to complete the job.
Flagyl (Metronidazole) is an old stand-by treatment for bacterial infestations that cause diarrhea and is about 60-70 percent effective in curing giardiasis. However, Flagyl has potentially serious side-effects in some animals, including vomiting, anorexia, liver toxicity, and some neurological signs, and it cannot be used in pregnant dogs.
In a recent study, Panacur or Safeguard (Fenbendazole), which is approved for use in treating dogs with roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm, has been shown to be effective in treating canine giardiasis. Panacur and
Safeguard (Fenbendazole) is also safe to use in puppies at least six weeks of age and pregnant dogs.
You can also get Safeguard over the counter at Petco and Petsmart and both treatments can be found online for cheaper at Vet Supply Stores like Revival Animal Health online and Lambert Vet Supply online.
I purchase the Flagyl (Metronidazole) tablets from from revivalanimal.com online without a prescription and for a lot less money. I have seen Vet bills charging as much as $15.00 for two (2) 250 mg tablets.
I buy a product called FISH-ZOLE which is simply the prescription Metronidazole (Rx) bottled and labeled for fish tank use. It is a bottle of 250 mg x 30 tablets of Metronidazole (Flagyl) for only$24.99 (current price as of 07/20/2012). These tablets are the exact same tablets that you get when your Vet prescribes this drug to your dogs. Let me make this clear, these are the exact same tablets: same size, same color, and even same markings.
Recommended Dosage:  I give adult Labradoodles (avg. 45 lbs) one 250 mg tablet twice per day and Doodle puppies (avg. 8-12 lbs) one-half of a 250 mg tablet twice per day for a total of 5 days.
In 5 days, your Labradoodles will be 100% FREE from giardiasis. These tablets are extremely easy to administer, and this is also the dosage which is recommended by most Vets. You will not find this medication cheaper anywhere else.
Another approach is to retreat after an interval of one week.

 WARNING: BEFORE YOU WORM WITH PANACUR OR SAFE-GUARD FOR DOGS MAKE SURE YOUR DOG HAS BEEN TESTED FOR HEARTWORM AND ON A HEARTWORM MEDICINE DAILY. IF NOT, AND YOUR DOG HAS ADULT HEART WORMS, IT WILL KILL THE HEARTWORMS BUT THE DEAD WORMS CLOG THE HEART AND IT WILL KILL YOUR DOG. MAKE SURE YOU ARE WORKING WITH YOUR VET ON THIS SO THERE IS NO MISTAKE WHEN USING DRUGS.

Coccidia

Coccidia are small protozoans (one-celled organisms) that live in the intestinal tracts of dogs and cats. They cause disease most commonly in puppies and kittens less than six months of age, in adult animals whose immune system is suppressed, or in animals who are stressed in other ways (e.g.; change in ownership, other disease present).In dogs and cats, most coccidia are of the genus called IsosporaIsospora canis and I. ohioensisare the species most often encountered in dogs. Regardless of which species is present, we generally refer to the disease as coccidiosis. As a puppy ages, he tends to develop a natural immunity to the effects of coccidia. As an adult, he may carry coccidia in his intestines, and shed the cyst in the feces, but experience no ill effects.

All dogs have some level of Coccidia in their gut. When a dog is stressed (i.e. being shipped, moving into a new environment etc ) the stress can cause the Coccidia to bloom and flair up causing diarrhea. The solution is to give the dog ALBON. How much and how it is administered is a question for your vet.

How are coccidia transmitted?

A puppy is not born with the coccidia organisms in his intestine. However, once born, the puppy is frequently exposed to his mother’s feces, and if the mother is shedding the infective cysts in her feces, then the young animals will likely ingest them and coccidia will develop within the young animal’s intestines. Since young puppies, usually those less than six months of age, have no immunity to coccidia, the organisms reproduce in great numbers and parasitize the young animal’s intestines. Oftentimes, this has severe effects.

From exposure to the coccidia in feces to the onset of the illness is about 13 days. Most puppies who are ill from coccidia are, therefore, two weeks of age and older. Although most infections are the result of spread from the mother, this is not always the case. Any infected puppy or kitten is contagious to other puppies or kittens. In breeding facilities, shelters, animal hospitals, etc., it is wise to isolate those infected from those that are not.

What are the symptoms of coccidiosis?

The primary sign of an animal suffering with coccidiosis is diarrhea. The diarrhea may be mild to severe depending on the level of infection. Blood and mucous may be present, especially in advanced cases. Severely affected animals may also vomit, lose their appetite, become dehydrated, and in some instances, die from the disease.

Most infected puppies encountered by the authors are in the four to twelve week age group. The possibility of coccidiosis should always be considered when a loose stool or diarrhea is encountered in this age group. A microscopic fecal exam by a veterinarian will detect the cysts confirming a diagnosis.

It should be mentioned that stress plays a role in the development of coccidiosis. It is not uncommon for a seemingly healthy puppy to arrive at his new home and develop diarrhea several days later leading to a diagnosis of coccidia. If the puppy has been at the new home for less than thirteen days, then he had coccidia before he arrived. Remember, the incubation period (from exposure to illness) is about thirteen days. If the puppy has been with his new owner several weeks, then the exposure to coccidia most likely occurred after the animal arrived at the new home.

What are the risks?

Although many cases are mild, it is not uncommon to see severe, bloody diarrhea result in dehydration and even death. This is most common in animals who are ill or infected with other parasites, bacteria, or viruses. Coccidiosis is very contagious, especially among young puppies. Entire kennels may become contaminated, with puppies of many age groups simultaneously affected.

What is the treatment of coccidiosis?

Fortunately, coccidiosis is treatable. Drugs such as sulfadimethoxine (Albon®) and trimethoprim-sulfadiazine (Tribrissen®) have been effective in the treatment and prevention of coccidia. Because these drugs do not kill the organisms, but rather inhibit their reproduction capabilities, elimination of coccidia from the intestine is not rapid. By stopping the ability of the protozoa to reproduce, time is allowed for the puppy’s own immunity to develop and remove the organisms. Drug treatments of one to three weeks are usually required.

How is coccidiosis prevented or controlled?

Because coccidia is spread by the feces of carrier animals, it is very important to practice strict sanitation. All fecal material should be removed. Housing needs to be such that food and water cannot become contaminated with feces. Clean water should be provided at all times. Most disinfectants do not work well against coccidia; incineration of the feces, and steam cleaning, immersion in boiling water, or a 10% ammonia solution are the best methods to kill coccidia. Coccidia can withstand freezing.

Cockroaches and flies can mechanically carry coccidia from one place to another. Mice and other animals can ingest the coccidia and when killed and eaten by a dog, for instance, can infect the dog. Therefore, insect and rodent control is very important in preventing coccidiosis.

Can Coccidia infect Humans?

While there are species of coccidia that can infect people (Toxoplasma and Cryptosporidium, for example), the Isospora species of dogs and cats are not infective to people.

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