Cryptosporidium in Dogs
Coccidia - Target is ChangingIn 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!
Clinical PictureCryptosporidium is a particularly nasty type of Coccidian. Crypto is resistant to the traditional Coccidia medications, and it tends to 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 10 Crypto organisms can cause infection, so the thousands of Cryptosporidium shed in feces is quite infective to litter mates.
DiagonosisCryptosporidium 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.
TreatmentDrugs that work on Coccidia do not have any effect on Crypto. Tylan powder 10 mg per pound twice a day (Plumb) is the treatment most used. Use Tylosin for 21 days to clear in adult stock. It can be put into a medicator for automatic water systems. 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.
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 and D.E.S. Health-Gard can pass the stomach's defenses to become active in the small intestine.
PreventionPreventing 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.
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 and extreme cold weather should decrease the risk.
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, 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.