Coccidia in Dogs and Cats
Coccidia are parasites that are often misunderstood. After the first exposure, Coccidian parasites are always present in the animal's intestines, and they're just waiting to take advantage of any digestive upset. It is rarely the initial cause of the diarrhea, but once diarrhea starts, the Coccidia will grow to large numbers to keep the diarrhea going. Coccidia are spread through feces, and younger animals are more susceptible to the disease because of their underdeveloped immune systems. Coccidia are a major issue for babies under eight weeks old and can even kill them.
Transmission of Coccidia
Puppies are born with a sterile gut, and their mother seeds their gut with good bacteria during cleaning and care. However, puppies are often introduced to Coccidia through their mothers' infected feces. Coccidia can be spread from puppies to kittens and vice versa. The goal is to keep the puppy's exposure to a minimum number.
There are a variety of products you can use for both treatment and prevention, but the goal is to keep the numbers so low in the kennel that you rarely need to treat.
Marquis® is used to both prevent and treat Coccidia (Plumb). It works well and the once-a-week dose is easy to administer. Marquis (Ponazuril) will cause dry eye, so use caution in puppies under six weeks old - eye ulcers may develop in flat-nosed breeds. Marquis lasts seven days, and when it's given before shipment, it's very effective in stopping Coccidia from overwhelming the puppy as he adjusts to his new home. It is also okay to use late pregnancy.
Sulfa drugs have long been used to treat Coccidia, and they're also effective for prevention. Sulfadimethoxine Albon® works by preventing reproduction of the parasites. However, Albon® has seen some resistance from years of use. The best way to monitor resistance is to track the complaints post sale and switch your preventative before issues arise. You can switch back to Albon after six months or a year of using another preventative. Sulfa-Trimeth is related to Albon and has been used as an alternative with excellent efficacy.
Coccidia prevention needs to be started before birth and continued to the weaned babies. However, be cautious as many products are not safe in pregnant moms! You can never use sulfa between the 25th and 30th day of gestation as you increase cleft palate in dogs or cats. That is when the palate closes.
Another important part of prevention includes insect and rodent control, as mice and cockroaches can carry Coccidia. It is also important to practice strict sanitation. Because Coccidia spreads primarily through feces, all fecal matter should be removed regularly. This will help prevent food and water from becoming contaminated with feces.
Prevention of Coccidia in Dogs
Decoquinate is an easy way to prevent Coccidia - simply add it to your puppy's food. Decoquinate works by preventing Coccidia from reproducing so they die of attrition (old age). It is safe for pregnant dogs! The mother should also be fed puppy food with decoquinate; feed the last two weeks of pregnancy. This decreases the number of Coccidia the mother can give to the puppies. When you wean the puppies onto decoquinate, it controls the issue until you move them to their new home.
Babies can go on Albon® or a generic after weaning for seven days. Can also use on moms after 35 days pregnant.
Another prevention option is to use Marquis®. Remember, dose every seven days for treatment for Coccidiosis and every 14 days for prevention.
Amprolium (Corid®) can also be used as Coccidia prevention. The flavor is terrible, so some people add raspberry or strawberry flavoring to help with the taste. For small breeds, do not mix it with water because they tend to get dehydrated from not drinking. The preferred way to use Amprolium is to drench the puppy daily - you know the dose is in and they will also drink adequate water.
Prevention of Coccidia in Cats
Coccidia prevention for cats is very different than for dogs. Queens cannot have something added to food. Cats have a protective response to things that change texture or taste. They will eat small amounts for several days until they are comfortable. We cannot have that in late pregnancy. Metronidazole is also documented for causing cleft palates. You can use Albon® or Marquis® safely the last 14 days of gestation. Choose Albon® or Marquis® – you don't need both!
- Use Albon® seven days before due date.
- Or use Marquis® before queening. The treatment for Coccidia is two doses repeated in seven days. We often use one dose before shipping kittens to a new home to prevent Coccidia after placement.
Foreign Products - AustraliaBaycox® by Bayer is a product that we are often asked about. The bad news is that this drug is not available in the United States legally, but it is available in some other countries by prescription. The active ingredient, Toltrazuril, is active inside the cell where Coccidia reproduce. This means Baycox kills Coccidia, while most treatments just prevent Coccidia from reproducing. A study on puppies showed it to be very effective for eliminating Coccidia from the puppy. Off-label use for kittens in Germany showed no adverse effects, and it's also effective against Toxoplasmosis. Toltrazuril is closely related to Ponazuril (Marquis®), and there is no benefit to using Baycox over Marquis. Bayer has no plans currently to bring this product to the U.S.
Even though Coccidia is always present in an animal, if you can prevent them from becoming an issue, you may never need to treat Coccidia again!
If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.
Don Bramlage, DVM, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.