I just wanted to take a minute to discuss Coccidia in puppies, dogs, and canines. Firstly about how it happens, secondly what circumstances can cause a puppy to have a flare up of it, and thirdly and most importantly for my breeder friends – the very best treatment for Coccidia. All my information is from thorough research reading study’s done by the NIH (National Institute of Health) which is part of the US national library of medicine ( I will support this with links), and from personal experience. Let’s dig in!
If you get a puppy and its diagnosed with a Coccidia infection – you 100% should not just automatically assume that the breeder who sold you the puppy is a “Backyard” breeder breeding dogs in deplorable conditions. Here’s why: Almost every single warm blooded has Coccidia in their gut ALL THE TIME !! NIH link to support the claim that every dog generally has coccidia in the gut. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19932360
Dogs can ingest the Coccidia from other dogs feces, simply getting dirt in their mouths, or even if they eat or come into contact with rodents like a mouse, hampster, gerble etc. These intestinal parasites are allowed to get out of control and turn into an infection when the immune system is stressed or they come into contact with Coccidia from another dogs feces causing a high enough level of the parasites so it is classified as an infection. Any breeder who has even 5 breeding dogs in they’re home, if one dog gets a flare up of coccidia or coccidia infection – those spores live a freaking long time and can randomly infect another dog down the road just from being int he same area as the infected dog. Every veterinarian in the US for some reason prescribes Albon, which doesn’t do shit to stop reinfection to your other dogs, even most cleaning supplies doesn’t kill the spores! But I’ll get into treatment a little later. So give us breeders a break. Most of us are taking awesome care of our dogs, we are nuts about cleaning, and all it takes is one sick puppy or parent to really mess with us and good breeders who care stay up nights to become proficient in stuff we never thought we’d have to.
I can’t tell you how many night’s I spent all night awake in my bed, going over hours of research in my head, the symptoms i’ve seen, the timeline of the things and how this might affect me for a long time. It is scary !!! To date as I write this page for my site (5/4/19) I have sold two dogs that had coccidia infections or coccidia found in their fecal after they got to their new home. One was Winston who went to New Jersey, and Pepper, who went to an awesome Lady named Sarah in Kentucky. I was super lucky that neither of them went spouting off saying terrible things and claiming I sold them a sick puppy. This brings me to what can cause a flare up. I say flare up – because as we have already established according to the NIH link above – All warmblooded animals have Coccidia in the gut. It’s the same concept as Tuberculosis, everyone has it, but its hardly ever active in the host. Okay moving right along…
You need to know as a buyer or a breeder that when a puppy is born – and it drinks its mother milk it gets tons of antibodies in the mothers colostrum in the first 4 hours after birth. At about six to seven weeks of age, your puppy’s immune system starts to work on it’s own. Mothers antibodies begin to “drop off” in their little bodies. This means little puppy’s immune system has to start doing everything on its own for the first time. This is why vets don’t like to vaccinate before 6 weeks of age (because mothers antibodies will take care of it without an immuno response learned by the puppy). So at six weeks of age little puppy has to start controlling coccidia , and literally thousands of other things that the immune system handles, like parvo. How often do we hear of a puppy contracting parvo at 6-8 weeks. ALL the TIME!!! This is because the immune system of a brand new baby that is starting to work on its own doesn’t always get off to the best start.
Now that you understand that – lets add upon that knowledge. What happens in a puppies life at 6-8 weeks of age. Stresser # 1 – puppies get wheaned usually starting at 6 weeks old. Every litter develops at different rates, so its super stressful on the breeder and pups to make sure that delicate balance of slowly changing to food but getting enough milk to not stress the puppy out. We all know that Stress is bad for the immune system, in every species. You may have even seen this in a family member or friend. Stress weakens the immune system. Stresser #2 – Puppies get seperated from mom and siblings Stresser #3 – Puppies get a new home. Stresser #4 – New owner changes food. Please for the love of all that is holy, do not change your puppys food right after you get it. Any veterinarian will tell you that an immediete change of food will cause some serious GI problems in small breeds.
Add all these things together and you have a perfect storm for the immune system and GI tract (The immune system is the gut in every mammalian specie). So don’t go spouting that its the breeders fault unless you have seen with your own peepers dogs living in filth and covered with fecies. Just don’t pass judgement right off hand. Do call your breeder and let them know. Its possible that the dog had the coccidia infection before it left, but more likely, your getting a flare up from stressers, not because your breeder intentionally sold you a sick yorkie baby. Both the puppies I mentioned above that had tested positive for coccidia after they got to their new homes – none of my other dogs tested positive. Did the coccidia come from my house? No one could ever know. But as we established in the beginning – most warm blooded animals already have it in the gut – add stressers – and there you go. Trying to place blame in this situation is not helpful. Theres no way to know. It is possible that your breeder is letting dogs live in deplorable conditions.- but more often than not, its just a storm waiting to happen because of the puppies immune system starting on its own, and stressful events. So what do we do to mitigate the chances and treat the problem?
Coccidia Symptoms and Treatment
-Diarrhea, sometimes it is bloody, or it can go from just diarrhea with out blood, to blood.
-Puppy acting weak and lethargic, may present as Hypoglycemia especially in small breeds.
Okay so here is the nitty gritty of treatment. Why in the seven circles of hell every veterinarian wants to prescribe Albon after a dog tests positive for Coccidia – I will never know. Actually I have a hunch. I’m guessing the owners of Albon, don’t want Toltrazuril to be distributed directly to veterinarians in the US. So its cheaper for vets to prescribe Albon than it is to prescribe Toltrazuril. Toltrazuril is expensive. You have to order it from Australia. Toltrazuril actually kills the Coccidia Cyst’s , Albon does not, so its not as effective in stopping the growth cycle. This assertion is confirmed by a study published by the NIH here is the link : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11068811
I want to finish this by saying that GI issues are so hard to deal with, they can be so hard to pin down the cause without a fecal. Before you get your puppy, find a vet you like and do a fecal on your puppy as soon as you get them.
For breeders : treating your puppy with toltrazuril even a week before it leaves, can prevent a flare up. Especially if the new owner decides to quickly change the food on the poor pup. Im not going to include dosing instructions, read the full study, they give dosing instructions. Its not a continuous dose like Albon, its just a one time dose that totally wipes out coccidia for up to 30 days !!! You can buy it online many equine vet websites. You do not need a prespriction to buy it! Its a white bottle with a black horse on the label. Do your puppies and clients a favor, dose those babies with toltrazuril before they leave.
Thanks for reading! Janet