What is Coccidiosis?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease that affects the intestinal tract of animals. The disease can affect a wide variety of animals including, but not limited to, cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, cats, and dogs. It is fairly common in kittens and puppies.

Cleaning the area around an animal's food with bleach prevents the spread of coccidia.
Cleaning the area around an animal's food with bleach prevents the spread of coccidia.

This condition is caused by protozoans called coccidia. There are many species of coccidia, and each is infective in different animals. The species of coccidia that most frequently affect dogs are Isospora canis and I. ohioensis. I. rivolta and I. felis are the usual species present in domestic cats.

Puppies may develop coccidia after contact with an infected animal's feces at a shelter.
Puppies may develop coccidia after contact with an infected animal's feces at a shelter.

The primary symptom of the disease is diarrhea. A cat or dog with coccidiosis may experience mild to severe diarrhea and blood and mucous may be evident. In severe cases, affected animals may experience vomiting, appetite loss, and dehydration, and may die.

Coccidiosis is fairly common in kittens.
Coccidiosis is fairly common in kittens.

Transmitted through contact with the feces of an infected animal, coccidiosis is most severe in very young or medically weak animals. In fact, the disease most frequently affects puppies and kittens less than six months old. Adult animals can be carriers of coccidia and infect other animals through cysts shed in the feces, yet exhibit no symptoms. However, adult animals with suppressed immune systems are susceptible to the disease.

Puppies are at risk for coccidiosis.
Puppies are at risk for coccidiosis.

Puppies and kittens are not infected with coccidia at birth. Normally, a kitten or puppy comes into contact with its mother's feces soon after birth. If the mother has coccidia cysts in her feces, the juvenile animal is likely to ingest them, allowing the coccidia to enter and multiply at a rapid rate.

Coccidiosis can affect goats and other farm animals.
Coccidiosis can affect goats and other farm animals.

Typically, the time period from exposure to coccidia cysts to the onset of coccidiosis is just 13 days. Therefore, most puppies and kittens with the condition are at least two weeks old. Though most puppies and kittens are infected by their mothers, many contract the highly contagious disease from other animals in shelters, animal hospitals, and breeding facilities.

Stress plays an important role in this condition. Often, a puppy or kitten will carry coccidia with no obvious symptoms, only to begin exhibiting signs of the disease when faced with stressful situations. A change in ownership is an example of the type of stress that may provoke a case of coccidiosis.

Coccidiosis is treatable using medication. Common medications used to treat the disease include sulfadimethoxine, amprolium, and trimethoprim-sulfadiazine. These drugs do not heal the disease. Instead, they work to impair the ability of coccidia to reproduce, allowing the animal's immune system to develop and eliminate the protozoans. Typically, medication treatment lasts five days or more.

Good sanitation habits can help to prevent the spread of coccidia. It is important to prevent the contamination of food and water by fecal matter. As insects and rodents can spread coccidia from place to place, effective pest control is essential as well.

Cattle can be infected with coccidiosis.
Cattle can be infected with coccidiosis.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


My 10 year old dog has just had this I thought I was going to lose him, would not eat – and he is a pig for food. He had terrible diarrhea. I had to go to the vet four times and she put him on three different antibiotics at the same time and the paste he had to take. He was really sick.

I did manage to get him to drink so he did not get dehydrated. He was like this for 13 days. I was really worried. At the moment, he is picking up and eating and his motions are back to normal. The vet said it normally happens to puppies.


My male five year old cat also has this, and now is on week two of meds. I'm waiting on full blood work. I clean the litter pan daily and mop floors with bleach. I also wash my hands daily.

My vet said it's very hard to believe a full grown cat has this disease full blown. Will it ever go away? I'm in the middle of making a hard decision in my life and putting him down. I don't want him to suffer. Any thoughts?


I just got out of the hospital recently with respiratory failure coccidiosis. I had been helping a friend on his ranch with calves infected with coccidiosis.


coccidia can keep coming back or never go away if the pets' living environments are not cleaned constantly. Change the litter every time it goes to the bathroom. So only put a little in there at a time. Normal cleaners won't kill coccidia. Another thing you can do is every time your kitten goes to the bathroom, wash its paws off. Don't let it reinfect itself. It should eventually go away.

Clean litter is the key, and clean paws, since cats love to clean themselves.


We found our kitten when she was four weeks old. She had Coccidia and feline Herpes, which is nothing like human Herpes. We have been giving her a Lysene paste for cats every day to boost her immune system. She loves it and licks it from the pump as it has a fish flavor.

It is about fifteen dollars, and one pump bottle lasts three to four months. It has done wonders for her immunity, and she is now a strong and healthy ten-month old. The Lysene is called Enesyl (Lysene spelled backward). A good vet should have it.


No it can not be transferred to humans. Just make sure you have a clean space for your animal and clean water at all times. Pick up the poop.


Does anybody know if Coccidiosis can be transferred to humans ?


I really hope someone can help me, I have a kitten 5 months old and he suffers from coccidiosis, I got him when he was 8 wks old and had this disease and he has been treated four different times and nothing seems to help. Is this common to have it coming back so many times, the Vet says it's just because his immune system isn't developed and can't fight the parasite. Could there be some underlining problem my kitten has and what is the long term effects of this disease. How do I know if my kitten is a carrier of this disease, will this ever go away

has anyone ever heard of this constantly happening is this normal. The Vet offered to take back the kitten and get a healthy kitten, I just want to know is this a life time condition and when should I start worrying!!!!

Post your comments
Forgot password?