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Cryptosporidium in Dogs
August 3, 2023
How does a dog get Cryptosporidium? In the past, treating Coccidia in dogs used to be somewhat routine. This type of Coccidian has been sulfa-responsive and easily managed. In the last few years, veterinarians have been seeing small Coccidian. This Coccidian is so small that it is difficult to see under a microscope! Veterinarians thought this may be something new and pursued a diagnosis from a state lab. The labs determined that what they were seeing was Cryptosporidium. Cryptosporidium is from the Coccidia family, but it is not the same parasite!
What is Cryptosporidium in Dogs?
Cryptosporidium is a particularly nasty type of Coccidian. Crypto is resistant to the traditional Coccidia medications, and it may kill puppies that are on Coccidia prevention. Some feel we have done a great job of preventing Coccidia, but at the same time have created a void of no competition for Crypto to multiply. This is a viable theory in young animals.
Puppies affected with Crypto exhibit most clinical issues just before moving to a new home. Clinical signs of Crypto include a neurological component, along with drooling and diarrhea. Dogs might also suffer from lack of appetite, weakness and lethargy.
The disease progresses from normal to death very quickly. We know that it only takes 10 Crypto organisms can cause infection, so the thousands of Cryptosporidium shed in feces is quite infective to litter mates.
How to Tell If Your Dog Has Cryptosporidium
Cryptosporidium can be seen under a high power microscope. These Coccidia could be misdiagnosed because they look similar to normal Coccidia, except they are very tiny. Often veterinarians see lots of Coccidia and stop there; this can be a mistake! We must recognize these tiny Coccidian as Crypto and treat appropriately.
The infected animal’s feces can be sent to the lab to confirm. The lab will look at the genetic material using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), a tool frequently used to diagnose diseases by identifying its DNA. PCR is wonderful as it gives no false positives. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, you will need to take steps for appropriate treatment.
How is Cryptosporidium Treated in Dogs?
Drugs that work on Coccidia do not have any effect on Crypto. Tylan powder 10 mg per pound twice a day (Plumb) is the Cryptosporidium dog treatment most used. Use Tylosin for 21 days to clear in adult stock. It can be mixed with the food or put into a medicator for automatic water systems. It has a very bitter taste which must be masked to keep the puppy eating and drinking. Azithromycin 5 mg per pound twice a day for seven days (Plumb) will get Cryptosporidium, but this method is not practical for every litter. Azithromycin is good as a treatment when first diagnosed to get ahead of the infection.
Once Crypto has been confirmed, put Tylan powder (¼ tsp/gallon water) in the water for two weeks after weaning. It is best to block the nipple water and use bottles for the weaned babies. Bottles have always been a preference for small breed babies as it is easy to see how much they drink. You can medicate 10 mg per pound twice a day in food but you must be sure everyone gets their share! In tiny breeds, mixing Tylan powder in yogurt has been used effectively. This is great with a litter of three but difficult with a litter of eight. Using Breeder’s Edge Puppy Lyte or Kitten Lyte can aid in masking the bitter taste and keeping the puppies and kittens well-hydrated during treatment
We’ve long known that probiotics are helpful in treating Cryptosporidium. When selecting a probiotic, be sure it can pass through the stomach acid and enzymes or you will be disappointed with the results. Doc Roy’s® GI Synbiotics, Breeder’s Edge Nurture Flora and D.E.S. Health-Gard can pass the stomach’s defenses to become active in the small intestine.
Is Cryptosporidiosis Contagious in Dogs?
Preventing the spread of Cryptosporidiosis includes keeping the infected isolated. Because the disease is very contagious, take steps to ensure clean water and a clean environment.
How Do You Get Rid of Cryptosporidium in Dogs?
Crypto oocysts are resistant to most disinfectants. Virkon and Oxine, as well as exposure to extreme temperatures (32° F and below or 149° F and above), will decrease the number of Crypto oocysts on hard surfaces. It is nearly impossible to remove Crypto from the yard as most exposure comes from feces piles. Removal of the feces piles, using a detergent to break down fats and oils, and extreme cold weather should decrease the risk. Steam cleaning can also improve control in a kennel.
Distinguishing between Coccidia and Cryptosporidium is crucial for appropriate treatment and prevention. Once we know the cause, we can treat the infected and control the issue.
If you need help with cryptosporidium dog treatment or prevention, call us at 800.786.4751.
Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.