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Most adult dogs pick up and recover from coccidia without you ever knowing about it, but when puppies pick up the parasite it can have a serious impact on their health.
Your poor little pup can find himself with severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can make him feel lethargic and unwell due to dehydration and lack of nutrients.
Considering these digestive problems, it can be hard to know what to feed a puppy with coccidia to avoid making his situation worse, and to help him recover as quickly as possible.
In this article, we will take a closer look at coccidia: what it is, how puppies get it, and what symptoms you can expect to see if your dog does pick up the parasite.
We will also take you through how to keep your dog hydrated and fed while he is recovering from the illness, as well as some recommendations for the best pet foods to give your dog during this time.
What Is Coccidia?
Coccidia is a protozoan single-celled intestinal parasite that tends to infect dogs.
The parasites are microscopic, so you will never see them, and many dogs pick up the parasite and never show any negative symptoms. Other dogs will show mild symptoms but will fight off the infection on their own.
Some dogs, though, and especially puppies, can develop severe symptoms including lots of watery diarrhea, constant vomiting, and generally being in distress.
Vets will usually diagnose coccidia based on your dog’s symptoms, and then an examination of stool samples to identify the eggs of the parasite.
Your dog probably caught coccidia by swallowing oocysts, immature coccidia, that are found in dog feces and soil contaminated with feces.
Other infected dogs have the eggs in their feces and pass the parasites to other dogs in this way. The eggs are very resilient and can survive for a long time in feces and in soil. In fact, if the conditions are right, they can sporulate and become even more infectious.
Dogs can also get coccidia if they eat small animals, such as mice and other rodents, that are infected with the parasite.
Can My Dog Pass Coccidia To Me And My Family?
The species of coccidia most common in dogs has no effect on humans, so you shouldn’t be too worried about picking up the same condition; however, there are less common species that do have the potential to infect human hosts.
Disinfecting areas used by your dog will also protect human family members, and always be sure to wash hands thoroughly after cleaning dog feces.
How Is Coccidia Treated?
You may not even be aware that your dog has coccidia, and she often will fight off the infection on her own. If she has mild symptoms you might also be able to treat her at home using some of the methods that we will discuss further down in this article.
If a puppy or dog is severely affected by coccidia, your vet could write her a prescription for a sulfa-type antibiotic called sulfadimethoxine.
She will need to take the medication for between 5 and 25 days, and the course can sometimes be repeated if the infection is particularly bad. If this is not effective, there are other options available that your vet can discuss with you.
If your dog has become severely dehydrated as a result of diarrhea or vomiting, she may also be given IV fluids to help restore her liquid levels.
Reinfection is common with this parasite since dogs often continue to inhabit the same environment where they first ingested the eggs and may have passed more eggs into the soil through their own feces.
Areas that you suspect have been contaminated should be cleaned with diluted chlorine bleach, with 250 ml of bleach diluted in 3.8 liters of water. Be sure to test clean areas before getting started as bleach can damage various surfaces.
If you suspect upholstery or other fabrics have been affected, steam cleaning can also be used to destroy the infecting eggs.
Remove and safely dispose of feces quickly to minimize the chances of further contamination.
If you think that your dog may have gotten sick because it ate the feces of another infected dog, this may be a sign to teach your pup not to eat feces (more on this below).
Symptoms Of Coccidia
Healthy adult dogs may show no symptoms of coccidia and recover from the parasite without you ever knowing that they had it, or only show mild symptoms, but puppies and dogs with compromised health can show more serious symptoms.
Principally these will include the following.
- Excessive watery diarrhea
- Rapid weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Reduced appetite
Of course, vomiting and diarrhea can be a side effect of many medical issues, including viruses, eating something inappropriate (often called dietary indiscretion), other parasites, toxins and poisons, pancreatitis, and medications.
Excessive diarrhea and vomiting are always serious symptoms and you should consult your vet to identify the specific cause of their issue.
What To Feed A Puppy With Coccidia?
If your dog is displaying symptoms of coccidia, whether he is prescribed medication or not, you will need to make some adjustments to his diet to help him recover as quickly as possible.
Keep Them Hydrated
The most important thing is to ensure that they stay hydrated, as puppies can become dehydrated very quickly and can even die from dehydration. Never withhold water from a puppy for extended periods unless explicitly instructed to do so by your vet.
Your puppy may be reluctant to drink much, though, because of the pain in his stomach. You can help to rehydrate him with less by giving him something like Pedialyte, which is a rehydrating liquid often used for babies and young children.
If he is turning his nose up at that as well, try chicken broth. The smell will often be too delicious for your dog to refuse.
If he is so ill that even this won’t coax him to hydrate, try giving him ice cubes or even frozen chicken broth cubes. Often a sick puppy that won’t drink will lick these cubes to give himself a bit of relief.
Give The Intestines And Bowels A Rest
Excessive vomiting and diarrhea can cause your dog’s intestines and bowels serious distress, so feed her a liquid diet for 12-24 hours to give her body a break before starting her on solid foods again.
This does not mean that she should be left without nutrition, and here again, chicken broth is probably your best option to give them the energy that they need.
Start Them On A Bland Diet
Until his diarrhea and vomiting stop, give him a bland diet that is less likely to trigger episodes and will cause less distress if he does vomit.
If you want to prepare his food yourself, look at a diet of rice and chicken. Start him off on the first day with a diet of plain rice, boiled in water with a chicken breast to give it an appetizing flavor and aroma for your dog.
On the following day, start introducing protein again, preferably boneless, skinless chicken.
Feed him small meals on a regular basis so he never has too much in his stomach.
Once his symptoms have subsided, you can gradually return him to his normal diet by mixing a small amount of his normal food into his bland diet and slowly increasing the ratio until he is back on his normal diet.
This is the same process that you should follow whenever you change his food, but it is particularly important when his stomach is already sensitive and any abrupt changes can cause it to revolt.
If you are feeding your dog pet food, choose low-fat options that contain common proteins such as chicken or beef, rather than exotic proteins. Look for recipes that contain no artificial additives and that use as few ingredients as possible.
Best Dog Foods For Puppies With Coccidia
If you are looking for bland dog food for your sick puppy, we recommend the following options from Chewy.
This recipe from Natural Balance is perfect for sick puppies as it is made almost exclusively from lamb and brown rice for easy digestion. It is also nutrient-dense which can help restore many of the nutrients that your dog has lost during her illness.
This is one of the few limited ingredient recipes designed specifically with puppies in mind, which is important since they tend to need more protein and energy than growing dogs. There is also a chicken and brown rice formula available.
Blue Buffalo also makes a limited ingredient recipe for puppies based on turkey and potato, though it also contains oatmeal, peas, and brown rice. While these shouldn’t be difficult for your puppy to digest, the number of ingredients is something to keep an eye on.
This recipe has a good mixture of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to give your dog’s immune system a boost and help her fight off the parasites and recover naturally.
While this is not a limited ingredient recipe, this chicken and rice recipe from Wellness Core is designed for easy digestion for puppies, which is ideal when they aren’t feeling well.
The recipe contains digestive enzymes, prebiotic fibers, and probiotics to help restore her digestive health that will have been compromised by her illness and the medication. It is specifically formulated for puppies under one year old, which are the most likely to be affected by coccidia.
Rachel Ray also offers a chicken and brown rice recipe that is ideal for recovering pups. It is free of anything artificial and contains vitamins, minerals, and taurine to help restore your dog’s gut health and energy following her illness.
The recipe is also relatively low in fiber, which can be a good thing when dogs are suffering from stomach problems, as it means that there is less residue for them to pass.
If you prefer to feed your puppy canned food, Ziwi Peak makes a range of limited ingredient options that could be incorporated into her diet.
Their lamb recipe is made almost exclusively from lamb and lamb organ meat which is an important part of a dog’s diet. While muscle meat is the first ingredient, you will also find lung, kidney, liver, tripe, heart, and bone. This mirrors the whole-prey, nutrient-dense diet that dogs would eat in the wild.
How To Teach Your Dog Not To Eat Feces
If you suspect (or know) that your dog is smelling, licking, or ingesting feces that he finds, this is probably how he got coccidia. It is time to teach him to leave feces alone.
While eating poop is not good for his health, don’t feel bad if your dog has this tendency; it is actually quite common. Around one in four dogs will occasionally ingest some poop, but you can encourage them to leave it alone.
How to stop dogs from eating poop depends on why they are eating it.
Some dogs will eat poop as a way of acting out because they are anxious, or feeling confined or restricted. If you eliminate these issues, you will probably find that they stop eating poop.
You can also use taste-aversion products to put them off the delicacy. Use these bitter sprays when dogs get close to poop so that they learn to associate it with the bad taste.
Some theorize that dogs are attracted to poop because they are missing something in their diet and seeking it out.
A vitamin supplement might be just what you need to put an end to this behavior. Vitamin B deficiency is considered the usual suspect, but you can also take your dog to be tested by your vet.
The other thing is to work hard to teach your dog the “leave it” command so you can stop them before they start eating while out and about. Of course, this only works if you are there to observe the behavior.
In addition to coccidia, dogs can also get intestinal worms from eating feces which is another good reason to stop them from eating it.
What are the symptoms of coccidia in dogs?
The principal symptoms of coccidia in dogs are excessive watery diarrhea and vomiting. They may also experience severe abdominal pain and distress.
How contagious is coccidia in dogs?
Coccidia is very contagious in dogs because the parasites are resilient and stick around for a long time. They can also survive in soil and on other surfaces to pass to your dog.
Can coccidia be passed from dogs to humans?
The most common type of coccidia that affects dogs has no negative effects on humans, but there are a few rare strains that can make humans sick. Wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning up the poop of any dog, but especially a sick puppy.
How do I disinfect my yard from dog poop?
Bleach diluted with water is often the best way to disinfect a yard that may have been contaminated with infected feces, as coccidia is resistant to other types of disinfectants.
While coccidia does not tend to be a serious condition for adult dogs, it can wreak havoc on the digestive systems of puppies. It can cause serious bouts of diarrhea and vomiting that put your puppy’s health and wellbeing at serious risk.
Some puppies will recover on their own and others will need medication, but most will pass a period of difficulty where they have a reduced appetite and significant digestive issues.
It is important to change their diet at this time to help them recuperate as quickly as possible.
This generally means putting them on a bland diet and only slowly transitioning them back to their standard diet after they have fully recovered. Keeping them hydrated is also key as they will lose lots of fluids during their illness.
Hopefully, if you follow the advice in this article your puppy will be back to her sprightly self in no time after a bout of coccidia.
Do you have any recommendations for how to feed a puppy with coccidia?
Share them with the community in the comments section below.
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DISCLAIMER: We are not veterinarians. This article is for entertainment purposes only. If your puppy is experiencing any health problems please contact your veterinarian immediately.
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