Coccidia & Giardia
Coccidia are small protozoans (one-celled organisms) that live in the intestinal tracts of dogs and cats. The diseases caused by these microscopic protozoal parasites are referred to collectively as Coccidiosis, and they vary tremendously in virulence. It is almost a natural flora that the adult animals become immune. Coccidia is one of the most prevalent protozoal infections in North American animals, second only to giardia. It isn't possible to kill the parasite, but medication is given to inhibit Coccidial reproduction.
Coccidia maybe carried by bugs (especially flies), rabbits, mice, cats, dogs, ticks, chickens and other animals. So, when dogs and puppies play in the yard, they can pick up the oocytes. Since we don't believe in keeping puppies in little above-the-ground cages 24 hours per day and 7 days per week (that would not be fun for them OR for us), we know they will be exposed. Yours will too, when you allow him or her to walk on grass in your yard or at parks. Oocysts (the name given to the microscopic, immature Coccidia organisms) are excreted from an infected animal in his feces, they then are absorbed into the soil and are hardy enough to live there for extended periods. If your pup ingests either the infected stools or the soil around/under them he gets infected himself.
Almost every puppy is exposed to the coccidia parasite and then carry the protozoa in their digestive systems. Many puppies are never physically affected by this protozoa.
Stress (such as when a puppy leaves its litter-mates for a new home) can cause the coccidia to flourish by multiplying rapidly, and this can lead to coccidosis. The highest incidence of Coccidiosis is in the first 21 days after a dog has changed owners and moved to a new residence. Some puppies may have mild symptoms that might go unnoticed (i.e., mild diarrhea) and eventually disappear, while other puppies display highly virulent infections. These puppies may display symptoms such as diarrhea with mucus and blood, poor appetite and vomiting. In extreme cases, the puppy can get severely dehydrated and if left untreated it can be fatal. The susceptibility of puppies to this disease varies.
We feel it's best to medicate preventatively in our opinion. We have a strict regimen of prevention while puppies are here. Cleaning water and food bowels with a little bleach daily. Each puppy is cleaned daily with a disinfectant wipe from head to toe. Due to Cysts can remain stuck to the coats of infected animals. Puppies are shampoo and rinse well regularly. Puppies are taken to a clean area daily. While there prior area is cleaned that day. We clean that kennel daily multiple times once with Ammonia, then Bleach and lastly a special kennel disinfected. New litter is then added. They are given a preventative treatment of Albon. We have gone to a treatment of Ponazuril to reduce puppies risk as well. They are each given a weekly bath as well.
Ponazuril is a medication that recently has been shown to be highly effective in treating coccidia. Many experts now agree that Ponazuril is more effective than, and superior to Sulfadimethoxine.
However a puppy with a normal stool sample can still develop Coccidiosis when they are transferred to there new home. Because some pets never show any signs, fecal tests during physical examinations are considered standard practice for puppies.
Diagnosis can be done in one of two ways: via fecal sample by a Vet or via educated evaluation of clinical findings by the breeder/owner or the Vet. Via fecal sample is not straightforward. Coccidiosis can often be missed. Even when a flare is at it's worst, the oocysts may not be shedding in every single stool. Therefore, a negative report does not rule out Coccidia. You may have to do a repeat stool sample. Generally the best way is to combine the fecal test results with the observation of other symptoms such as diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss and so on to come to a conclusion.
Disinfectants containing qua-ternary ammonium compounds have been found to kill Coccidia oocysts at the manufacturers. Sanitation is the single most important prevention of Coccidiosis. Clean up and dispose of feces as soon as possible, disinfect runs, cages and food bowls every day to destroy infective organisms.
Coccidia can spread from one pet to another. However, healthy adult pets are very unlikely to contract the parasite. Because of this, it is uncommon for newly adopted puppies or kittens to spread the disease to established adult animals in the house. If an adult dog is infected with Coccidia, it's often because he already has a weakened immune system due to another illness or health condition.
Like most people that raise puppies and that have educated themselves, we treat preventatively for Coccidia because it is very hard to avoid having on the property. In fact, I've seen references that indicate that ALL kennels have Coccidia. There are actually several different species of Coccidia, which are found in dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents and more. Even humans can get a form of this disease (but the strains specific to dogs aren't transferable to humans). The most common species of Coccidia in dogs are called Isospora Canis. The Coccidia species that infect dogs don’t infect cats, and vice versa.
Giardia are protozoans, tiny, one-celled parasitic life forms with the potential to cause serious illness in your dog’s intestine and is found worldwide. Many puppies are never physically affected by this single-celled parasite. It infects older dogs but more frequently infects puppies. Giardia infection (giardiasis) is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in the United States. Giardia may be present in water or other substances that have been soiled with feces. The cysts of Giardia can remain viable for several weeks or months in cold, wet environments, so areas littered with feces should be avoided and piles should be removed from.
The best way to prevent Giardia infection is to make sure that your dog has safe, clean drinking water. It is important not to allow dogs to drink water from areas where other animals have left their feces.
We feel it's best to medicate preventatively in our opinion. We have a strict regimen of prevention while puppies are here. Cleaning water and food bowels with a little bleach daily. Each puppy is cleaned daily with a disinfectant wipe from head to toe. Due to Cysts can remain stuck to the coats of infected animals. Puppies are shampoo and rinse well regularly. Puppies are taken to a clean area daily. While there prior area is cleaned that day. We clean that kennel daily multiple times once with Ammonia, then Bleach and lastly a special kennel disinfected. New litter is then added. They are given a preventative treatment of Safeguard. (Fenbendazole)
Giardiasis is very difficult to diagnose because the protozoa are so small and are not passed with every stool. Tests on serial stool samples (one stool sample every day for three days) are often required to find the organism. Negative test results can also occur in some infected animals. If a negative test occurs, your veterinarian will often suggest repeating the test.
If liquid/water consistency to stools appear and do not clear have a stool sample done to recheck your puppy. Some will have diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss and blood in stools. Long terms the puppy will become malnourished, hair dull and lethargic.
Some vets will even treat by symptoms.
Dogs do not acquire immunity to giardia after treatment, so they can contract the disease again. Giardia prevents proper absorption of nutrients, damages the delicate intestinal lining, and interferes with digestion.
There are many species of Giardia, and experts do not know if these species infect only specific hosts. Sources of some human infections have possibly been linked to beavers, other wild animals, and domestic animals. Until we know otherwise, it would be wise to consider infected animals capable of transmitting Giardia to humans.
You may have heard about Giardia outbreaks occurring in humans due to drinking contaminated water. Contamination of urban water supplies with Giardia is usually attributed to (human) sewage effluents.
More information on Giardia
It is possible for an animal to truly have parasitism, but for tell-tale eggs, larvae and/or oocysts not to be discovered on a fecal floatation test. These test results are termed false negative test results and they occur for several reasons:
Certain parasite eggs and oocysts may be shed intermittently
Some worms and protozoans only shed very low numbers of eggs or oocysts
Lab error and veterinarian inexperience
Destruction of the parasitic eggs or oocysts by the fecal float solution
Certain parasite eggs do not float very well
Some eggs hatch very early, making worm infestations hard to detect
Incorrectly diagnosing the correct parasite species
Non-Medicinal Treatments for Diarrhea:
If your puppy has liquid/water consistency to stools, and not solid or pudding type stools, it's time to contact a vet. Liquid stools are a sign of bad diarrhea, and could lead very quickly to dehydration. Dehydration can lead to death. So, totally liquid stools are not to be taken lightly. See or contact a vet.
But for "soft" stools, there "usually" is not a danger to the puppy requiring a vet trip. If you had soft stools, would you go to the doctor? If a puppy has "soft" stools, with a consistency like pudding, as long as the puppy is drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, the concern is much, much less.
Remember, I am not a vet and don't recommend anything. These are just things we've tried or heard of. These ideas might not fix the problem if the cause is a protozoa, but they can help control diarrhea in general:
Plain or vanilla yogurt (with cultures). Can mix with a little cottage cheese.
Buttermilk (with active cultures)
Pepto Bismol (2 to 4 times daily for a couple days, 1 cc to 3 cc's each time, depending upon puppy's size...I have heard 1 tsp per 10 lbs is also a common dosage). Or, crush a Pepto (or generic equivalent) tablet and mix with canned dog food. Along with this, you can offer Pedialyte to help prevent dehydration.
Bland diet: rice flavored by boiled chicken for two days (bland foods). Boil rice with a chicken breast for 20 mins (1 c rice, 2 c water, 1 chicken breast). Feed only the rice for two days. On day three, offer some of the chicken breast. If diarrhea goes away, slowly return to regular dog food.
Canned pumpkin is my personal favorite though.