Pet Wellness Guides > Coccidia in Dogs: Signs and Treatments - Pet Insurance Review

Coccidia in Dogs: Signs and Treatments

Posted: 04/25/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

Has your pup been experiencing diarrhea? Does it have a very peculiar smell, almost like mold or fungus? If so, it may point to a very specific gastrointestinal (GI) issue called coccidia. This blog post will explore coccidia in dogs and share the signs to look for as well as treatment options.

Coccidia in Dogs

What Is Coccidia in Dogs?

Coccidia is also sometimes called canine Cystoisospora spp. (formerly Isospera). It is a protozoan (tiny-celled) parasite that can infect the gastrointestinal tract of dogs. While it is most commonly found in puppies, coccidia can also infect adult dogs and cats.

Symptoms of Coccidia in Dogs and Puppies

The following are some of the most common signs of coccidia in dogs and puppies as well as some of the more severe symptoms you might observe:

  • Diarrhea (May be watery or contain blood or mucus)
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration

Severe signs of coccidia in dogs and puppies include: 

  • Not eating (anorexia)
  • Vomiting
  • Depression

Not all infected dogs will show symptoms. Some dogs with coccidia are asymptomatic, but they can and do still shed eggs in their feces that can infect other dogs or puppies. And this is exactly why it is so important that your dog has a fecal example at their annual (or biannual) vet visits. 

Coccidia in Dogs

How are Dogs and Puppies Infected with Coccidia?

Adult dogs typically become infected with coccidia by ingesting the oocyst, or the coccidia eggs from a contaminated environment such as soil or feces that contains coccidia. If you have one of those dogs that tends to eat dirt and/or other dog’s poop, you’ll definitely want to get a fecal exam done AT LEAST once (most likely more times) a year!

Young puppies are far more susceptible to infection because they have an underdeveloped immune system. For this reason it is important that your puppy also get multiple fecal exams throughout the year.

And finally, stressful situations such as traveling or moving to a new home and chronic diseases can make any dog of any age more susceptible to a coccidia infection. 

Can Dogs Become Infected from Other Animals?

Coccidia is usually host-specific, meaning that your pup cannot become infected by ingesting the feces of another species such as cats, rabbits and sheep. Having said that, dogs may become infected through predatory behaviors when a whole animal is ingested. 

Can Dogs Transmit Coccidia to Cats?

Dogs cannot pass coccidia to cats, even if a cat is exposed to dog feces that is infected with coccidia. Coccidia in cats is caused by another host-specific coccidia parasite.

Can Humans Get Coccidia? 

No. Coccidia is not what is called a “zoonotic” disease, and this means that humans cannot become infected from an animal.

Coccidia Treatment for Dogs and Puppies 

Treating coccidia in dogs is very straightforward – you want to eliminate the parasite completely. To do this you’ll need to do two things:

1. Get a Prescription from Your Vet

If you suspect your dog may be infected with coccidia, you’ll need to take them to the vet to be checked. If their fecal exam is positive for coccidia, your vet will most likely prescribe two medications.

Metronidazole is often prescribed to treat diarrhea in dogs caused by coccidia. However, Metronidazole does not rid the body of the parasite. For that your vet will most likely prescribe sulfadimethoxine, which is the only FDA-approved treatment for coccidia. 

It is very important that you follow medication administration guidelines to the proverbial “T”. Also, do not take your dog to the dog park or any communal areas until her infection is completely cleared.

2. Clean Up After Your Dog

It’s important to understand that even though your dog may pass the coccidia out of her GI tract, the parasites can actually remain infectious in the environment for several months

For this reason you must thoroughly clean up after your dog and also scoop up a bit of the ground your dog’s feces was on. This will ensure the parasites cannot set up shop in the environment. This will also protect other dogs from being exposed and help your own dog/dogs from becoming reinfected.

How to Prevent Coccidia in Dogs and Puppies 

First, if you have a puppy, it’s really best to avoid environments where infected dogs may be. This means no dog parks or doggy daycare. It’s best to wait until your puppy is older and their immune system is fully developed before allowing them around other dogs.

Having said that, you can absolutely organize puppy playdates with healthy dogs in a safe and controlled environment. This usually means at someone’s house as opposed to a public area. 

And finally, while you can’t necessarily always prevent a coccidia infection, you can catch it early by making sure you have a fecal exam done once if not twice a year. 

Final Thoughts

Coccidia in dogs can cause a very distinct smelling diarrhea. Dogs can lose weight, become depressed and dehydrated, and even die from the infection if not caught and treated in time. Be sure to have your dog’s feces checked at least once a year for this parasite and keep your puppy away from public areas until her immune system is fully developed.

Keep Your Pup Healthy with a Pet Insurance Plan

We always think of the big things that can make our dogs sick like cancer or heart disease. But sometimes the things that can make our pups very ill are small, even microscopic. 

A pet insurance plan will protect your pup’s health and ensure you can get her the treatment she needs no matter what is compromising her health. There are plans to fit all budget sizes. So why not take two minutes to get a customized quote from some of the country’s top providers?

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  1. “Coccidiosis in Dogs”, Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM; Debbie Stoewen DVM, MSW, RSW, PhD; Amy Panning, DVM; Ernest Ward, DVM
  2. “Coccidiosis of Cats and Dogs”, Anthony Andrews , BVetMed, PhD, DECBHM, DECSRHM, Anthony H. Andrews



The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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