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Coccidia

I am a small cattery and I took a kitten back from a buyer and refunded them because kitten had cocicdia. I tested another cat and he came back pos for cocidia. I gave Albon that my Vet percribed(they now hate me)however I could not treat my pregnant cat so I most likely still have it in my home. I am cleaning and cleaning. In your book you said you had coccicia once, how did you get rid of it?

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Re: Coccidia

Dear Teresa,

Coccidia are small protozoans (one-celled organisms) that multiply in the intestinal tracts of cats, most commonly in kittens less than six months of age. It may also appear in adult felines whose immune system has been suppressed due to being stressed, for example as in a change of ownership or from complications from another disease being present. I purchased three breeding cats sick with ringworm and later realized they also carried coccidia. It took several applications of Albon over a six month period to finally rid my felines of the disease. I found the ringworm to be more difficult though as it resurfaced three times in my stud male before he was finally able to shed the virus. Coccidia is a frustrating problem and takes persistence to eradicate with daily medication for each infected feline. This problem resurfaced with two of the infected queens and in each situation they had to isolated within my cattery.

In cats, most coccidia are of the genus called Isospora. I. felis and I. rivolta are the most common species found in cats. Regardless of which species is present, it is generally referred to as coccidiosis. As a kitten ages, he tends to develop a natural immunity to the effects of coccidia. As an adult, he may carry coccidia in his intestines, and shed the cyst in the feces, but experience no ill effects. A kitten is not born with the coccidia organisms in his intestine. However, once born, the kitten is frequently exposed to his mother's feces, and if the mother is shedding the infective cysts in her feces, then the young animals will likely ingest them and coccidia will develop within their intestines. Since young kittens, usually those less than six months of age, have no immunity to coccidia, the organisms reproduce in great numbers and parasitize the young animal's intestines. Often times, this has severe effects.

From exposure to the coccidia in feces to the onset of the illness is about 13 days. Most kittens who are ill from coccidia are, therefore, two weeks of age and older. Although most infections are the result of spread from the mother, this is not always the case. Any infected kitten is contagious to other kittens. In catteries it is best to isolate those infected from those that are not as Coccidiosis is very contagious, especially among young kittens. Entire catteries may become contaminated, with kittens of many age groups simultaneously affected.

The primary sign of an animal suffering with coccidiosis is diarrhea. The diarrhea may be mild to severe depending on the level of infection. Blood and mucous may be present, especially in advanced cases. Severely affected felines may also vomit, lose their appetite, become dehydrated, and in some instances, die from the disease. Most infected kittens are in the four to twelve week age group. The possibility of coccidiosis should always be considered when a loose stool or diarrhea is encountered in this age group. A microscopic fecal exam by a veterinarian will detect the cysts confirming a diagnosis.

It should be mentioned that stress plays a role in the development of coccidiosis. It is not uncommon for a seemingly healthy kitten to arrive at his new home and develop diarrhea several days later leading to a diagnosis of coccidia. If the kitten has been at the new home for less than thirteen days, then he had coccidia before he arrived. Remember, the incubation period (from exposure to illness) is about thirteen days. If the kitten has been with his new owner several weeks, then the exposure to coccidia most likely occurred after the animal arrived at the new home.

Fortunately, coccidiosis is treatable. Drugs such as sulfadimethoxine (Albon®) and trimethoprim-sulfadiazine (Tribrissen®) have been effective in the treatment and prevention of coccidia. Because these drugs do not kill the organisms, but rather inhibit their reproduction capabilities, elimination of coccidia from the intestine is not rapid. By stopping the ability of the protozoa to reproduce, time is allowed for the kitten's own immunity to develop and remove the organisms. Drug treatments of one to three weeks are usually required and my vet prescribed a three week program.

As coccidia is spread by the feces of carrier felines it is very important to practice strict sanitation. All fecal material should be removed. Housing needs to be such that food and water cannot become contaminated with feces. Clean water should be provided at all times. Most disinfectants do not work well against coccidia; incineration of the feces, and steam cleaning, immersion in boiling water, or a 10% ammonia solution are the best methods to kill coccidia. Coccidia can also withstand freezing.

Cockroaches and flies can mechanically carry coccidia from one place to another. Mice and other animals can ingest the coccidia and when killed and eaten by a cat, for instance, can infect the cat. Therefore, insect and rodent control is very important in prevent

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