How Did My Cat Become Infected
Your cat most likely became infected with coccidia from swallowing oocysts that are found in cat feces and any environment contaminated with feces. Oocysts are passed in the stool of an infected cat. They live in the environment and eventually mature into more developed oocysts that can cause infection or reinfection. This maturing can occur in as little as eight hours but usually takes seven to ten days. The more mature form of oocysts is infectious to other mammals, such as mice, as well. If your cat swallows the oocysts, they mature in the intestine to complete the life cycle. If a mouse swallows the oocysts, they encyst in the mouses organs, and your cat may become infected by eating the infected mouse.
Kittens are commonly diagnosed with coccidiosis, not born with it. After birth, kittens can become infected by their mother from exposure to her feces, especially with the tendency of kittens to explore. Coccidiosis is of particular danger for kittens since their immune system is underdeveloped. If the mother is shedding oocysts, her babies can ingest them during nursing.
“…kittens can become infected by their mother from exposure to her feces…’
Since young kittens have no immunity to coccidia, the organisms can reproduce in great numbers, which may have serious consequences. It takes about 3-11days for illness to develop after the kitten first ingests coccidia. Consequently, kittens that become sick from a coccidia infection are at least two weeks old.
Coccidia In Cats: Symptoms Treatment & Prevention
Coccidia in kittens and cats inhabit the intestinal tract. There are several species of these tiny parasites that are found in cats and other mammals, and some species are contagious to humans. The good news is that healthy adult cats rarely get sick with coccidia, and most cats can beat coccidia infections on their own without treatment. Read on to learn more about coccidia in cats as well as signs that your cat might have these parasites.
Causes Of Coccidia In Cats
Most cats, particularly those who spend time outdoors, pick up this parasite from their environment, grooming it off their fur and feet. Mice, rats, and other common prey species are known as transport hosts because they can carry certain life stages of coccidia, which then infect the cats who hunt them. Cats who share a litterbox with an infected cat risk picking up the parasite themselves, even if they do not hunt or go outside.
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Treatment Of Feline Coccidiosis
Some people may ask whether there is a cure for coccidia in cats. If so, they may also wonder how long does it take for coccidia to go away in cats once treatment is implemented. However, the treatment will depend on the individual feline patient and the state of progress of the disease. To begin, symptomatic treatment is required to stop and, hopefully, reverse the damage caused by the parasite. These generally include:
- Fluids: to restore water and electrolyte loss.
- Analgesics: drugs used to help the patient with abdominal pain.
- Vomiting inhibitors: only if the clinical picture warrants usage.
Action is essential since it could mean the life or death of the animal. After this, etiological treatment needs to be carried out. This means we need to fight the coccidia which are causing the disease. Coccidia are susceptible to certain antibiotics belonging to the sulfonamide family. If symptomatic treatment goes well, the prognosis is usually positive. We mustn’t forget that each doctor has their own criteria and the specific treatment will depend on the individual circumstances. We should never medicate the cat on our own without express advice from our veterinarian.
Coccidia In Dogs And Cats
Last updated: March 04, 2022 by
Coccidia are parasites that are often misunderstood. After the first exposure, Coccidian parasites may remain present in the animal’s intestines, and they’re just waiting to take advantage of any digestive upset. It is rarely the initial cause of the diarrhea, but once diarrhea starts, the Coccidia will grow to large numbers to keep the diarrhea going. Coccidia are spread through feces, and younger animals are more susceptible to the disease because of their underdeveloped immune systems. Coccidia are a major issue for babies under eight weeks old and can even kill them.
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Respiratory Illnesses In Kittens
Coccidiosis is an intestinal protozoa which can affect little kittens, but fortunately kittens can be treated with prompt diagnosis and medication. If your kitten has been diagnosed with a coccidiosis infection, a full and complete recovery is possible with veterinarian treatment, at home care and plenty of TLC.
Recovery And Management Of Coccidia In Cats
For cats with coccidia, the prognosis for recovery is positive most cats are able to clear the infection. Kittens are at a higher risk for more serious complications, or even death, because their immune systems are not strong enough to fight off infections. Thats why its important to be aware of the possible signs and symptoms.
Its a good idea to have another fecal test performed around the two-week mark after treatment begins, to ensure the cat has completely cleared the infection.
If antibiotics have been prescribed, be sure to complete the entire course as directed by your veterinarian, even after your cats symptoms start to clear up.
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Preventing Coccidia In Cats
Good hygiene practices are important when it comes to preventing the spread of coccidia. Feces should be removed from litter boxes at least once daily the quicker the disposal, the lower the risk of transmission. This is especially important in large facilities such as kennels and shelters.
Oocysts are extremely resistant to most disinfectants, so thorough cleaning and removal of any organic debris is very important. High-heat steam is the most effective way of destroying oocysts on contaminated surfaces. Kennels, cages, beds, dishes, and even utensils must be disinfected daily. Coccidia spores can live for more than a year, which makes eliminating them extremely difficult.
Get A Proper Diagnosis
When your kitten has persistent diarrhea or other GI distress, you will need to talk to a veterinarian about fecal testing in order to determine the culprit. Different parasites require different kinds of medication, and you cant know what to use until you know what you are trying to treat!
You can request a simple ova & parasites fecal test from your vet, which is quite affordable and can help identify parasites such as giardia, coccidia, and common worms. For more extensive diagnostic information, you can request a fecal PCR test, which also provides information about bacterial infections, viruses, and more. When doing a fecal test, you will simply bring a small stool sample to your veterinarian, who will send it to a laboratory for analysis.
If you run a rescue, you can also set up your own account with a laboratory with the help of your organizations veterinarian.
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Is Coccidia In Cats Contagious To Humans
Prevention of coccidia contagion in cats is best performed by maintaining strict hygiene standards and performing regular deworming. As we stated above, it is difficult to protect outdoor cats due to our inability to monitor them when outside. They may come in contact with infectious material without our knowing it.
We may wonder whether this is enough to prevent coccidia spreading to humans. The type of parasite which most commonly infests cats belongs to the genus Isospora. This is not a zoonotic parasite, i.e. it cannot spread to human beings. However, there are other types of coccidia, even if they are not as common. These include Toxoplasma gondii, an intracellular parasite belonging to the phylum Apicomplexa. This is the cause of toxoplasmosis in cats, one of the most studied zoonotic diseases and one which causes a serious public health problem in humans. Unfortunately, cats are the most significant vector for this parasite.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to What is Coccidia in Cats?, we recommend you visit our Parasitic diseases category.
1. Dubey, J. P., Lindsay, D. S., & Lappin, M. R. . Toxoplasmosis and Other Intestinal Coccidial Infections in Cats and Dogs. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract, 39, 1009-1034.
Recovery Of Coccidia In Cats
Be sure to isolate your adult cat or kitten from other cats during antibiotic treatment. Reinfection can easily happen, so extra sanitation measures should be taken. Clean all litter boxes at least once a day. Most coccidia need at least 24 hours outside of a host to infect another animal, so removing feces from the litter daily can prevent the parasites from re-entering your cat. Disinfect the litter boxes weekly using hot water and bleach.
Take extra care when monitoring the health of kittens to identify cases of coccidiosis before the infection has progressed too far. Test any pregnant cats for protozoa so that kittens may be treated after birth. Most coccidia can not spread to humans. The most common coccidia, I. felis poses no threat to owners. Infections of Toxoplasma or Cryptosporidium may present a small risk to pregnant women and any human who has a suppressed immune system.
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Site Of Infection And Pathogenesis
Developmental stages reside in either cells lining the intestinal villus or cells within the lamina propria of the villus.
Maturation and emergence of asexual and sexual stages from infected cells causes cell lysis. This damage can be especially severe when caused by species that develop within cells in the lamina propria.
Zoites also are found in extraintestinal tissues of definitive or paratenic hosts. These resting or latent stages are not thought to cause clinical disease.
How Is Coccidiosis Diagnosed
To diagnose a coccidia infection, a fecal ova and parasite screen will be run. A small amount of fresh feces is needed to run the test. This sample will be sent to a reference lab which uses a testing process called centrifugal floatation with microscopic examination to look for parasite eggs . This is the most accurate way to get a diagnosis as simple fecal flotations may miss parasite eggs. In some cases, it may take more than one test to find the parasite as they are not always shed in the fecal mater continuously.
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Signs Of Coccidia In The Cat
In order for a cat to become infected with coccidia, it must first ingest the parasite. This most commonly occurs when a cat ingests an infected mouse or another small animal in which the parasites oocysts are present. When a cat swallows the oocyst, it develops coccidiosis.
Like other intestinal parasites, coccidia affects the stool of an infected cat. This is a chief reason it is often confused with intestinal worms. Signs of coccidia in cats often include:
- Loss of appetite
Most cats showing symptoms of coccidiosis will have watery diarrhea.2 If the infection worsens, the cat may have abdominal discomfort and cry when defecating or when its belly is pressed. If diarrhea is left untreated, dehydration can occur resulting in sunken eyes and skin tenting. Skin tenting is most obvious over the shoulder blades when the cats skin is lifted and remains in the lifted shape upon release instead of snapping back.3 With severe infections, coccidia can also cause vomiting. In the rarer Toxoplasma infections, cats may show a lack of appetite and be lethargic. Unfortunately, like cats with infections of other types of coccidia, many show no symptoms at all.
Prepatent Period And Environmental Factors
Development of oocysts to infective sporulated oocysts does not occur above 40° C or below 20° C.
Sporulation occurs rapidly at temperatures between 30° C and 37° C.
Sporulated oocysts are resistant to adverse environmental conditions and can survive as long as one year in moist, protected environments if they are not exposed to freezing or extremely high temperatures.
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Diagnosing Coccidia In Cats
The most common way to diagnose coccidia is with a fecal flotation test. This test is performed to help identify internal parasites or worms. A fresh stool sample is taken from the cat and mixed with a solution made of salt or sugar, which causes the parasites and their eggs to float to the surface. Once that happens, they are examined more closely under a microscope.
If parasites are detected, the sample is deemed positive. However, if none are present, it does not automatically mean the test is negative. While it could be that there are no parasites in the intestinal tract, it could also mean that only a few coccidia, or none at all, were in that particular stool sample. This makes it impossible to determine a negative diagnosis with 100% certainty.
However, if the test is performed more than once on multiple stool samples and no parasites are found, its safe to say that the cat is not shedding the organisms.
Coccidia Treatment In Dogs And Cats
The only FDA approved drug is the Sulfa drug Sulfadimethoxine. This drug has long been used to treat Coccidia, and it is also effective for prevention. Sulfadimethoxine Albon® works by preventing reproduction of the parasites. However, there are concerns that Albon® has seen some resistance from years of use. The best way to monitor resistance is to track the complaints post sale and switch your preventative before issues arise. Sulfa-Trimeth is related to Albon and has been used as an alternative with excellent efficacy and is approved for use in dogs and cats in the United States.When using Albon and Sulfa-Trimeth suspensions, you must be certain you are dosing the medication correctly. There are four key steps to this.
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Treatment Of Coccidia In Cats
Coccidia is usually eliminated in cats with an oral antimicrobial medication. Sulfadimethoxine is the most commonly used product, though there are other medications that may be recommended.
Depending on the severity of the cats illness, antimicrobial treatment is often combined with medications to help alleviate symptoms, such as probiotics, low residue diets, anti-nausea medications, and fluid therapy.
Signs Of Coccidia In Cats
Signs of a coccidia infection vary based on the species of coccidia as well as the age and health of the cat. Coccidia in kittens usually causes more clinical signs than coccidia in healthy adult cats because kittens typically have a weaker immune system relative to adult cats. On the other hand, there may be no signs in adult cats the cat may look and act completely healthy and be able to overcome the infection without treatment. Cats with other underlying health issues are at higher risk for developing coccidia.
Signs of coccidia in kittens include watery or mucusy diarrhea that is sometimes streaked with blood. A severe infection of coccidia in kittens can cause weakness. Signs of a possible infection with Toxoplasma may include no signs at all, or the cat may display signs such as:
- Excessive tiredness or sleeping
Another factor to consider is that pregnant cats infected with Toxoplasma may deliver stillborn kittens. However, male cats seem to be at a higher risk for Toxoplasma than female cats.
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Control And Prevention Of Coccidiosis Of Cats And Dogs
Scrupulous hygiene is required in kittening and whelping areas. Preemptive fecal testing of cats in late pregnancy can be helpful where infections have previously occurred. Sanitation is important, especially in catteries and kennels, or where large numbers of animals are housed. Feces should be removed frequently. Fecal contamination of feed and water should be prevented. Runs, cages, and utensils should be disinfected daily. Raw meat should not be fed. Insect control should be established. Effective rodent control is required.
Infective oocysts can survive for many months in the environment and are resistant to most commonly used disinfectants. Chlorine disinfectants are effective . Some ammonia-based disinfectants kill oocysts but cannot be used while animals are present. Steam cleaning is effective. After thorough cleaning, a fallow period is recommended before further occupation. Preventive medication is usually not necessary. However, in cattery or kennel conditions, prophylactic medicines may be used. Amprolium, although not approved, is used for puppies as a drench often adding flavors to help disguise the taste. It is reported effective. Triazine antiprotozoals have been used orally in catteries and kennels, especially shelter premises, but as an extralabel use.
Coccidiosis In Cats Treatment Options
Coccidiosis is a condition thats caused by one celled organisms known as Coccidia. Although there are different types of Coccidia that exist, I. felis and I. rivolta are the two most common types of Coccidia that affect cats. Since the immune system in older pets is strong, they arent likely to suffer from this infection because they eliminate these organisms through their feces.
Kittens and pets that are less than 6 weeks of age are at greater risk of suffering from Coccidiosis. Pets that have weak immune systems are also susceptible to this condition.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Coccidiosis In Cats
Not every cat with coccidia will have signs of infection or disease. When illness does occur, it’s called coccidiosis and is most often seen in young kittens and in older cats with weakened immune systems.
According to Hutchison, the most common signs of disease caused by coccidia are naturally related to the digestive system and include:
Hutchison adds that cats with severe disease can exhibit anorexia, vomiting, and mental dullness, and they can ultimately die because of complications from the disease.
Because these signs aren’t specific to coccidiosis and are associated with a wide range of illnesses, fecal examsduring which veterinarians look for oocysts under a microscopeare essential to making a definitive diagnosis.