Should you worry about coccidia infection in catteries and kennels ? ( Part I )

 I am pretty sure the term « Coccidia » does ring a bell if you breed dogs or cats. Indeed, hardly a day goes by without me seeing it mentioned on a breeders’ forum. Very often, the tone sounds alarming. « What should I do ? », « How do I prevent this in my kennel / cattery ? », «  What is the best drug to deal with it? ». 


Generally speaking, I am under the impression that this parasite scares people out. Sure, it is one of those enemies you do not want to see in your kennel or cattery. It can be a threat. Eventually… But should we be afraid ? I believe this is essentially fear of the unknown. Knowledge : that is THE way to fight it. 


That's why I started writing this series. You will find there a list of fact breeders should know when it comes down to coccidia. Because knowledge is power. And when you know, you are not afraid. Because you are prepared. 


#1 Coccidia are unicellular digestive parasites. They are tiny little bugs (we call them protozoa) that, unlike worms, you cannot see with your own eyes in your animal’s feces. 


#2 The term « Coccidia » in fact refers to a larger family of parasites. Some of its members are quite "famous" so to say and you certainly have heard of them: Toxoplasma spNeospora sp, and Cryptosporidium sp ; there are others like Hammondia sp, Besnoitia sp and Sarcocystis sp. And there is Isospora sp..


#3 Isospora sp are the ones that interest us here : when you hear about « coccidia » in dogs & cats, this is usually the ones that are referred to. So don't freak out if you hear somebody - like me ! - mentioning  Isospora. This is no new bug ! Just a synonymous. 


#4 Coccidia / Isospora (!) are species-specific : the ones that infect cats will not infect dogs, and vice-versa. 


#5 We use a single term, but there are in fact several Isospora species :

- 4 of them infect dogs : Isospora canis, Isospora ohioensis, Isospora burrowsi and Isospora neorivolta

- 2 of them infect cats : Isospora felis and Isosposra rivolta

One generic name for 6 different pathogens !


#6 Why is this important ? Because they don’t infect the same type of individuals !


#7 Isospora canis & Isospora felis usually infect puppies and kittens at weaning...


#8 … while the others will usually affect neonates !   


#9 Coccidia are identified by fecal flotation (aka « fecal test »). None of the PCR panels (=DNA tests performed on stools and very often used in clinics) will screen for them to date. 


#10 Dogs and cats harbouring coccidia will shed structures called « oocysts » in their feces. These oocysts will infect the animals that ingest them. 


#11 Oocysts are resistant in the environment : they can survive for many months, and this despite well below freezing temperatures. So in order to clear out the environment, don't count too much on winter !  


That's it for today ! There is still plenty of things to write about coccidia, especially about the clinical aspect of the disease. And obviously about how to prevent it in breeding kennels and catteries ! So stay tuned, more to come soon on our blog !


"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.“ Benjamin Franklin. If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it! Good way to spread information inside our PRO community! And stay in touch with us to get our latest updates, just click on one of the icons below!

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