Understanding and Managing Coccidia in Dogs

icon November 21, 2023

Coccidia in dogs, a common protozoan parasite, can affect dogs and lead to various health issues if not properly addressed. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of coccidia in dogs.
Coccidia in Dogs

What is Coccidia in Dogs?

Coccidia are microscopic parasites that can infect a dog's intestines. These single-celled organisms, belonging to the Eimeria genus, can multiply rapidly and cause significant damage to the intestinal lining. Coccidiosis most often occurs in puppies, but adult dogs can also get infected. Like many intestinal parasites, coccidiosis can be especially dangerous for young puppies who have underdeveloped immune systems.

At least 4 different genera of coccidia can infect dogs:

  1. Isospora canis
  2. I. burrowsi
  3. I. neorivolta
  4. I. ohioensis.

The most common species affecting dogs include Isospora canis and Isospora ohioensis.

Causes of Coccidia in Dogs

Understanding the causes of coccidia in dogs is crucial for effective prevention. The primary mode of transmission is through the ingestion of contaminated feces. This can happen when dogs come into contact with contaminated soil, water, or other infected animals. Puppies are particularly vulnerable, as their immune systems are not fully developed.

Coccidia Symptoms in Dogs

Recognizing the symptoms of coccidia is vital for early intervention. 

  • Diarrhea: One of the hallmark signs of coccidia infection is diarrhea, which can range from mild to severe. The stool may be watery, contain mucus, or have a distinct, foul odor.
  • Lethargy: Infected dogs often display a lack of energy or enthusiasm, appearing tired and uninterested in normal activities.
  • Dehydration: Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, and dogs may exhibit signs such as increased thirst, dry gums, and sunken eyes.
  • Weight Loss: Prolonged coccidia infections can result in weight loss, as the parasites disrupt the absorption of nutrients in the intestines.
  • Loss of Appetite: Infected dogs may experience a decreased or complete loss of appetite, leading to a reduction in food intake.
  • Vomiting: While less common, coccidia infection may cause vomiting in some cases, contributing to the overall decline in the dog's health.
  • Abdominal Discomfort: Dogs with coccidiosis may show signs of abdominal pain or discomfort, such as restlessness or a hunched posture.

Can Coccidia Cause Seizures in Dogs?

In severe cases, coccidia infection may lead to neurological symptoms, including seizures. While not a common manifestation, the impact on the central nervous system can result in seizures, emphasizing the importance of prompt veterinary attention.

Can You See Coccidia in Dog Poop?

Unlike some parasites, coccidia is not visible to the naked eye in dog feces. Diagnosis requires specialized testing, often through a microscopic examination of a fecal sample. This underscores the necessity of regular veterinary check-ups and fecal screenings to detect coccidia in its early stages.

Is Coccidia in Dogs Contagious?

Yes, coccidia in dogs is contagious.

The parasite sheds oocysts (egg-like structures) in the feces, contaminating the environment. Other dogs can then become infected by ingesting these oocysts, creating a cycle of transmission. Prompt isolation of infected dogs and thorough cleaning of living spaces are crucial to preventing the spread of coccidia.

How Contagious is Coccidia from Dogs to Humans?

While coccidia is primarily a concern for dogs, there is a minimal risk of transmission to humans. The species that affect dogs typically do not cause significant harm to humans. However, it is essential to practice good hygiene, including thorough handwashing, especially after handling an infected dog or cleaning up after them.

How to Diagnose Coccidia in Dogs?

The diagnosis of coccidia in dogs is typically made through a fecal examination performed by a veterinarian. A microscopic examination of the dog's feces can reveal the presence of coccidia oocysts (egg-like structures) or other evidence of the parasite. If you suspect your dog may have coccidia or if they are showing symptoms such as diarrhea, lethargy, or dehydration, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Coccidia Treatment in Dogs

Treating coccidia in dogs involves the administration of specific medications prescribed by a veterinarian. Commonly used drugs include sulfadimethoxine and trimethoprim-sulfa. The duration of treatment varies, but it typically lasts for about ten days. It's crucial to follow the prescribed treatment plan and attend follow-up appointments to ensure the complete eradication of the parasite.

Recommended Treatment for Coccidia in Dogs:

Puainta® Coccidium/Toxoplasma Defense-Tablets


Sulfadiazine tablets for dogs are used for the internal deworming of pets and the treatment of conditions such as coccidia, toxoplasmosis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and sensitive bacterial infections, as well as otitis media.


The effect of killing Coccidia and Toxoplasma is obvious.

It is effective against sensitive bacteria.

How Long is Coccidia Contagious After Treatment in Dogs?

Determining the contagious period after coccidia treatment in dogs is essential for preventing re-infection. While the medication eliminates the active infection relatively quickly, dogs may still shed oocysts for up to a few weeks after treatment. During this period, continued precautions, such as proper hygiene and isolation from other dogs, are necessary.

Preventing Coccidia in Dogs

Prevention plays a crucial role in managing coccidia in dogs. Here are some effective preventive measures:

1. Hygiene: Maintain a clean living environment, regularly cleaning and disinfecting areas where dogs eliminate.

  • Sterilize bowls and chew toys with boiling water.
  • Wash bedding using bleach and detergent on the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • Using a 1:10 solution of ammonia and water or 1:16 solution of bleach and water, clean your dog’s crate and any floors where your dog may have had a potty accident. Leave the solution on for at least 20 minutes before rinsing.
  • Steam clean any affected carpet or rug areas.

2. Isolation: If a dog is diagnosed with coccidia, isolate them from other dogs to prevent the spread of the parasite.

3. Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with a veterinarian to monitor your dog's health and catch any potential infections early.

4. Fecal Screenings: Periodic fecal screenings can help detect coccidia before symptoms appear, allowing for early intervention.

Keeping your dog's environment clean and not allowing him to eat poop can help prevent an infection.

How To Stop Your Pup From Eating Poop

If your canine companion has developed a habit of eating poop, explore our article on understanding why do dogs eat poop and effective ways to put an end to it. By curbing this undesirable habit, you can safeguard your dog from potential health issues like coccidiosis and various other troublesome parasites. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms associated with different worms and parasites to better monitor your pet's well-being.

Long-term Effects of Coccidia in Dogs

In some cases, coccidiosis can lead to chronic health issues. Regular monitoring and follow-up care are essential for dogs that have recovered from a coccidia infection. The key long-term effects include:

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Chronic diarrhea, intermittent loose stools, or other gastrointestinal symptoms can persist even after the infection has been resolved. This is because coccidia can cause damage to the lining of the intestines, leading to malabsorption and digestive difficulties.
  • Immune System Impact: Dogs that have had coccidia may have a weakened immune system, especially if the infection was severe. This can make them more susceptible to other infections and diseases.
  • Weight Loss and Poor Growth: In young puppies, a severe coccidia infection can lead to poor growth and development. This is due to the malabsorption of nutrients and the body's resources being diverted to fight the infection.
  • Potential for Recurrence: There is a risk of recurrence, particularly in dogs with weakened immune systems or those in environments where coccidia is prevalent. Regular monitoring and preventive measures are important.
  • Chronic Enteritis: In some cases, coccidia can lead to chronic enteritis, which is a persistent inflammation of the intestines. This condition can be challenging to manage and may require long-term dietary changes and medication.


What Are the First Signs of Coccidia in Dogs?

The first signs often include diarrhea, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

How is Coccidiosis Diagnosed in Dogs?

It's typically diagnosed through fecal exams and laboratory tests by a veterinarian.

Can Coccidia in Dogs Be Treated at Home?

While mild cases may be manageable at home, veterinary guidance is crucial for proper treatment.

Is Coccidia Contagious to Other Pets or Humans?

Coccidia is generally not zoonotic but can spread to other dogs.

How Can I Prevent My Dog from Getting Coccidia?

Keeping your dog's environment clean and regular veterinary check-ups are key preventive measures.

Are Certain Dog Breeds More Susceptible to Coccidia?

While all dogs can get coccidia, puppies and immunocompromised dogs are at higher risk.


Coccidia in Dogs
Coccidia is a common and potentially serious health concern for dogs, particularly puppies. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for responsible pet ownership. By practicing good hygiene, seeking prompt veterinary care, and following preventive measures, dog owners can minimize the risk of coccidia infection and ensure the well-being of their furry companions.

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