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Viruses and Parasites

  

 
Coccidia-
 
It's important to understand that coccidia can be found in the stools of normal dogs. All dogs have some level of Coccidia in their gut. They just flare up at times of stress (i.e when pups are weaned, shipped ,changing to new environments, changing food, ect...). The stress can cause the Coccidia to bloom and flair up causing diarrhea.
 
Once a dog is diagnosed with coccidiosis there are a couple of options for treatment. Dogs can be treated with coccidiostats. Albon (Sulfadimethoxine), Trimethoprim-sulfa (TMP-SMZ), or Corid . Your vet may recommend 5 + days of treatment or a cycle of treament.

 

The important thing to keep in mind about these drugs is that they do not kill the coccidia that your dog already has, they just stop coccidia from reproducing. The dogs must rely on their immune system to clear the parasite after treatment.

 

People ask what coccidia is and how their dogs become infected. Coccidiosis is an infection of the intestinal tract by one-celled protozoa. Coccidia spend a portion of their life living in the intestines of the infected dogs. The parasite is transmitted to other dogs when uninfected dogs eat the stool of an infected dog. This can happen in any number of ways. Eating stool, licking feet after walking on parasite, flys, cats, or people tracking it mechanically are just a couple of ways.

 

Picking up stools is part of a preventive program. Preventing this parasite can be difficult with litters that live in small areas and places people or other animals frequent often. It can be picked up every easily at a dog park, pet store, shelter, and public dog places. Coccidia eggs can live in the environment for two years - so disinfecting to keep levels down is important.

 

Steam cleaning is by far the best way to disinfect. The ONLY OTHER WAY to kill coccidia is to use a 10% ammonia solution (Bleach will NOT kill it) - but ammonia can not be used when the dogs are present - this is important you must move the pup elsewhere while cleaning.

 

Coccidia is not transmittable between species, each species has there own form of coccidia.

 

Giardia-

 

Giardia is another common single-celled parasite that lives in your dog’s intestine causing diarrhea. It sometimes infects older dogs but more frequently infects puppies. Dogs become infected when they swallow Giardia that may be present in water or other substances that have been soiled with feces (i.e. puppy toy that was on the gournd where parasite was, stagnant water where insects may transmitt it to, water that has been walked through or played in by other dogs, mud puddle at a park or anywhere, often just from walking in areas dogs frequent after rain!). The parasite is aquatic and loves any water source it can get in.

 

Many dogs infected with Giardia do not get any disease. Periods of stress may cause these organisms to multiply resulting in symptoms of a dog that was perviously symptom free. Giardiasis, the disease caused by Giardia infection, usually results in diarrhea. Having giardiasis a long time can cause weight loss; generally poor condition; and even death in very serious cases.

 

Once a dog is diagnosed with Giardia the vet will prescribe one of several options. Many will use Fenbendazole for 3+ days (ie panacur or safe guard). Other options are Metronidazole (flagyl) for 5+ days or Albenazole 2+ days.

 

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 (ie off the ground like a puddle). Baths to get parasites off of the fur especially if puppy has been through muddy areas also helps as dogs groom themselves and then lick the parasite into them. Picking up the feces left by your dog immediately and placing it in the trash.

 

Cleaning is important to preventing the spread of this parasite also and you will need to use bleach at 1:10 or even 1:5 water ratio, lysol brand II or III, or quaternary ammonium disinfectants to kill. Giardia can live up to 10 years in the ground.

 

Giardia is a common cause of diarrhea in people, but dog Giardia is not generally considered to spread from animals to humans. While human Giardia may infect dogs and then be passed on to humans, the majority of human cases are of human origin.

 

Parvo-

 

The disease is caused by a highly contagious virus that is transmitted mostly by dogs orally contacting infected feces. It can be spread via people's shoes, clothes, hair, flys, on other animals fur ect... Parvo Virus is litterally every where and is always in the enviroment! Dogs naturally become immune to it and even though they are not at risk can carry it to a puppy very easily and unknowingly on there coats! The most common places for parvo levels to be high are dog parks, pets stores, public dog areas, shelters, and delivery people that go on many properties through any given day increasing odds of picking it up on shoes or clothes!

 

Being a virus, they contain only DNA or RNA, and are not capable of reproducing unless they invade a cell. Once inside the cell they take over and force the cell to produce so many new virus particles that the cell eventually bursts, releasing these new virus particles into the bloodstream and tissues so they can invade other cells. The only thing that can stop this is the immune system.

 

Viruses are the smallest of know living organisms, and can only be seen with special microscopes called scanning electron microscopes, that cost millions of dollars. The parvovirus is extremely small (the Latin word for small is parvo)- just 1 thimble full of stool can contain millions of virus particles. It is easy to see why contamination occurs so readily. Incubation period varies from 5-10 days. As in many viral diseases of the intestinal tract, some dogs can pick up the disease and shed the virus without significant symptoms in themselves. These dogs often accidentally spread it to other dogs.

 

There are many strains of parvo and over the years keeps mutating. To help prevent parvo you must keep levels down. In one ounce of infected feces there are about 35 million particals! It only takes about 1,000 paritcals to infect and bring down a puppy! Thorough cleaning with diluted bleach (1:30 with water, or 4 ounces of Clorox in a gallon of water) or trifectants will kill the virus. The soultion must bein contact with virus for at least 10 mintues to kill. Spraying down the yard as best as possible with a hose and bleach if you suspect parvo will also help. Most of all keep your puppy away from other dogs and public dog areas until all vaccines are complete!

 

Vaccines are highly effective and ideally, we should vaccinate pups every 2-4 weeks starting at 6 weeks of age and lasting until 5 months of age. This is not realistic for most people though. Fortunately, parvo vaccines given at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age are highly effective also. Puppies should not be exposed to other dogs or the feces of other dogs until the vaccine series is complete!

 

Corona Virus-

Canine Coronavirus ties with Canine Parvovirus as the leading viral causes of diarrhea in puppies. Clinically, the two infections can be indistinguishable. But they are quite different in their final effect - Canine Coronavirus rarely kills the puppy while Canine Parvovirus often does.

Canine Coronavirus is widespread in the dog population worldwide. It invades the rapidly growing cells of the intestinal lining causing nausea, lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. It is primarily a disease of puppies. Coronavirus is shed in the feces of infected dogs for months after initial ingestion. It takes one two three days from the time the puppy is exposed to an infected dog's stool for it to become visibly sick. There are slight (antigenic) differences between coronavirus strains isolated from puppies with diarrhea. So puppies and dogs immune to a particular strain of Coronavirus may not be immune other strains of the virus.

Most dogs probably become infected with coronavirus and recover without getting ill or after a sickness too mild for owners to notice. We know this because most adult dogs have antibody to this disease which indicates that they were, at one time, exposed to the virus.

Canine Coronavirus is an RNA-type virus and a member of the Group I Coronaviruses.


The main sign of Coronavirus in puppies is watery diarrhea. It differs from the diarrhea produced from eating trash in not containing much mucous. It differs from the diarrhea produced by Parvovirus in that it rarely contains digested blood. Some pups with the disease vomit, others do not.

Coronavirus diarrhea is often less violent than Parvovirus diarrhea. However, there is enough overlap of symptoms so that coronavirus can not be differentiated from parvovirus by clinical signs alone.

Coronavirus diarrhea typically lasts 2-4 days and very few puppies die from it. If puppies do die, there are usually other problems occurring at the same time, such as parasites, dual infection with parvovirus or malnutrition.

Within 2-3 days of ingesting the virus, coronavirus can be found in the upper two-thirds of the pet's small intestine. In very rare cases the virus may also invade the spleen, liver and brain and lungs.

During this same period diarrhea begins. Diarrhea usually lasts 2-7 days. The diarrhea is due to mal absorption of nutrients and a deficiency in digestive enzymes.


Most infected dogs shed coronavirus in their stools for 6-9 days. But shedding can be prolonged in some pups. Most puppies recover after a few days of diarrhea and poor appetite. However, puppies less than three months of age may die of the virus if they are weakened in some other way.

Puppies with coronavirus rarely have a fever.


There is no specific treatment your veterinarian has that kills canine coronavirus. Symptoms are treated indiviually. Many of these puppies have internal parasites that complicate the disease. If a protozoa is dected in fecal samples the pups are often placed on metronidazole (Flagyl). If worms are protected pups are often treated with pyrantel pamoate .

You can have your puppy vaccinated against coronavirus at 9 and 12 weeks of age. Adult dogs do not require yearly boosters.

Use a 1:20 dilution of ordinary household bleach to kill the virus.

Roundworms-

A large percentage of puppies (and kittens) are born with microscopically small roundworm, or ascarid, larvae in their tissues. The larvae is introduced to the developing pup (or kitten) right in the mother's uterus -- via migration through the mother's tissues!

 

Roundworm larvae can also be transferred to the nursing pup or kitten from the mother's milk. The larvae make their way to the intestinal tract where they can grow up to five inches in length. They start shedding eggs and try desperately to keep house in the small intestine of the pup (or kitten).

 

The eggs that the adult worms pass in the stool can now reinfest the animal or other dogs and cats if somehow the egg-bearing stool is eaten. When the worm eggs hatch, larvae are released internally to migrate to the animal's lungs where the larvae (remember, the larvae are microscopic in size) are finally coughed up, swallowed, and finally grow up to adults in the small intestine.

 

Female roundworms can produce 200,000 eggs in just one day. These eggs are protected by a hard shell, which enables them to exist in soil for up to years. Puppies (and kuttens) with active roundworms in the intestines often have a pot-bellied appearance and poor growth. The worms may be seen in vomit or stool. If not treated in time, a severe infestation can cause death by intestinal blockage.

 

Roundworms don't just affect young pups (or kittens), though. They can infest adult dogs and cats, too. However, as mentioned above, the larvae can encyst in body tissue of adult dogs and cats, remain dormant for periods of time, and can activate during the last stages of pregnancy to infest the puppies and kittens.

 

Worming the mother has no effect on the encysted larvae in the body tissues and cannot prevent the worms from infecting the newborn. Almost all wormers work only on the adult parasites in the intestinal tract.

 

 

Whipworms-

This parasite is more often seen in dogs than cats. Adult whipworms, although seldom seen in the stool, look like tiny pieces of thread, with one end enlarged. They live in the cecum, the first section of the dog's large intestine. Infestations are usually difficult to prove since the whipworms shed comparatively few eggs; so an examination of even several stool samples may not reveal the presence of whipworms.

 

If a dog is presented with chronic weight loss and passes stool that seems to have a covering of mucous (especially the last portion of stool the dog passes), and lives in a kennel situation or an area where whipworms are prevalent, the veterinarian may prescribe a whipworm medication based upon circumstantial evidence.

 

Although they seldom cause a dog's death, whipworms are a real nuisance for the dog and can be a problem for the veterinarian to diagnose.

 

 

Hookworms-

 

These are also much more common in dogs than in cats. They are very small, thin worms that fasten to the wall of the small intestine and suck blood. Dogs get hookworms from larval migration in the uterus, from contact with the larvae in stool-contaminated soil, or from ingesting the eggs after birth. As with roundworms, the hookworm larvae can also be transferred to the nursing pup from the mother's milk.

 

A severe hookworm infestation can kill puppies, often making them severely anemic from the loss of blood to the hookworms' vampire-like activities! Chronic hookworm infestation is a common cause of illness in older dogs, often demonstrated as poor stamina, feed efficiency and weight maintenance. Other signs include bloody diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and progressive weakness. Diagnosis is made by examining the feces for eggs under a microscope.

 

 

Tapeworms-

 

The tapeworm is transmitted to dogs (and cats) that ingest fleas -- as apparently fleas think tapeworm eggs are real tasty -- or hunt and eat wildlife or rodents infested with tapeworms or fleas. If you were to see an entire tapeworm you would notice that they are arranged with a small head at one end and many tiny brick-like repeating segments making up the rest of the worm.

Tapeworms can reach 4 to 6 inches in length within the intestine. Each tapeworm may have as many as 90 segments (!), though it is the last segments in the chain that are released from the worm that can be seen in the stool or, as seen in the photo on the right, attached to the fur under the pet's tail.

Many cases are diagnosed simply by seeing these tiny terminal segments attached to the pet's fur around the anus or under the tail; they even move around a bit shortly after they are passed and before they dry up and look like little grains of rice or confetti. It also these segments of the tapeworm which contain the eggs.

Tapeworms cannot be killed by the typical generic, over-the-counter wormers. You must find a wormer that works on tape worms specifically.  Since there are actually two types of tape worms I'd suggest Worm X Plus (over counter) for treatment or Drontal Plus (by prescription).  The tape worm talked about above it the most common tape worm in dogs.

 

Heartworms-

 

Canine heartworm disease is a potentially deadly infection, caused by worms (Dirofilaria immitis) that may grow to be 14-inch-long adults. These worms live in the right side of the heart and arteries of the lungs. Dogs of any age and breed are susceptible to infection. Heartworm infection can cause potentially serious damage to these arteries, eventually leading to heart failure, and in severe cases, damage other organs such as the liver and kidneys. In extreme cases, a dog can be infected with several hundred heartworms. Cats are also susceptible to the disease.


Coinciding with mosquito season, heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes that become infected with microfilariae while taking a blood meal from an infected dog. The microfilariae mature into the infective larval stage within the mosquito. When the mosquito then bites another dog, cat, or susceptible animal, it then passes the larvae into the animal’s blood stream through the bite wound, resulting in heartworm infection. It then takes a little over six months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms that can live for five to seven years in the dog.

 

It is best to use monthly heartworm preventive medicine like heartguard or Interceptor prescribed by your vet.  Once you get heartworms it is difficult to treat and some dogs are not strong enough to make it through treatment.