Posts Tagged ‘Coccidia’

     If you’ve been following along with our Under the ‘Scope series, you know I’ve blogged about Tapeworms, Hookworms, and Roundworms.  (If you haven’t read those posts, click on the links and read them now.) 
     I mentioned in the last post that I’ve been hoping to show you photos of Coccidiae and Whipworms, as well.  As it turns out, we’ve had a recent spate of dogs, both young and old, battling Coccidiae.  This is what we’ve seen under the microscope:

This is what we see at "medium" magnification. Photo by Jennifer Miele.

     Not too helpful, is it?  Coccidiae (that’s the plural of “coccidia”) are among the tiniest parasites we search for in your pet’s fecal sample.  Now look at this photo with some of the coccidia oocysts (spores) labeled for identification:

Click to enlarge and read the labels. Photo by Jennifer Miele.

     Now look at the oocysts under higher magnification:

Two highly magnified coccidia spores. Photo by Jennifer Miele.

     Now look at the coccidia as seen under an electron microscope:

     If you’re thinking that looks an awful lot like a jellyfish at the Virginia Aquarium, you’re right.  I have no idea how that snuck in there.  My apologies to everyone who reads this blog.  Anyway, now you know where I spent my Sunday. 

     Okay, let’s try this again.  Coccidia spore under super-intense hyper-fraznik electron microscope:

EEEEEEEEK! Photo by Jennifer Miele

     All right, all right, I’m messing with you.  Little tiny coccidia spores do not grow up to become sharks.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is, if your cat or dog is infected with these protozoan parasites, it may suffer chronic or intermittent diarrhea.  Left untreated, the infection may progress to the point that your pet has bloody stools, vomiting, and loss of appetite.  In rare cases, death may occur.

     Treatment for coccidiosis (the disease cause by the coccidia infection) is effective and uncomplicated, provided the illness has not progressed to a serious level.

     Coccidia species tend to stick to dogs and cats as their hosts.  A notable exception is Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis in humans.  Many women are familiar with this disease, as it is to be avoided at all costs during pregnancy. 
     Toxoplasmosis can be contracted by handling cat fecal matter or contaminated litter.  For this reason, a pregnant woman should ask someone else to clean the cat’s litterbox, or she should wear thick gloves and wash well after the task is completed.

     There is no preventative product on the market for coccidiosis.  Your pet should remain on its heartworm/intestinal worm preventative year-round, even though it will not protect against protozoan parasites. 
     Be vigilant in noticing whether your pet’s bathroom habits have changed.  If you suspect a parasite infection, notify our clinic so that we may examine a specimen under the microscope.  Who knows?  Your pet’s parasites could be the next ones featured on Under the ‘Scope!  ~~  Jen

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     If you’ve been following along lately, you know I have worms on the brain.  No, not literally, but we’ve seen several wormy dogs lately and that has provided me the opportunity to share with you photos of intestinal worm eggs as seen through our microscope.  First, I shared pictures of the elusive Tapeworm egg, then I followed up with a post on Hookworm eggs.

     I’d hate for the Roundworm bunch to feel left out, and today they don’t have to.  Our microscopic exam of a puppy’s stool sample yielded bunches of Hookworms and a few Roundworms.  I was surprised at how few Rounds we were seeing, especially since the owner had a camera-phone pic of an adult worm that the puppy had passed the night before.  Still, I was able to capture one of the little fellas on “film.”

Roundworm egg outnumbered by Hookworm eggs. Photo by Jennifer Miele

     And a close-up of our subject:

Single Roundworm egg with two Hookworm egg buddies. Photo by Jennifer Miele

     As I mentioned in previous posts on the topic, we do find it significant that both untreated adult dogs and puppies are showing intestinal worm infestation during the winter months.  This means it is not safe to let one’s guard down and discontinue heartworm/intestinal worm preventative medications in the cold-weather.  Visit the Tapeworm post and scroll down to learn about the types of heartworm/intestinal worm preventatives we carry.

     Like Hookworms, Roundworms are zoonotic, meaning they prefer animal hosts but will infect humans when possible.  Children are most likely to become infected because they may play in dirt and sandboxes where animals have relieved themselves.  During play, a child may stick his fingers in his mouth and ingest the worm eggs. 

     Take steps to protect your family: 

  • Sandboxes should be kept covered when not in use so that cats and other animals do not use them as a toilet. 
  • Dogs should be trained to defecate in one area of the yard, which is then off-limits for play by both animals and people and off-limits for gardening. 
  • Children and adults should not walk barefoot through contaminated yards, and gardeners should wear gloves while working. 
  • Remove fecal waste from the yard as soon as it is deposited, and do not use it in compost. 
  • Wash well after handling your cat or dog and after working in the yard, especially before preparing meals. 
  • Clean your pet’s outdoor toys and dishes daily.

     Now, if we’re all very lucky, I will bring you future posts featuring photographs of Whipworm eggs and Coccidiae.  Fingers crossed!   ~~  Jen

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     Most pet owners are familiar with the decidedly unglamorous chore of collecting their pet’s stool sample at the request of their veterinarian.  It is not uncommon for the squeamish to try to find a loophole that will allow them to sidestep such an onerous (not to mention odiferous) task.  I can’t say I blame them.  But of all the excuses one could use, this one is the least effective:  “I check my pet’s stool every day and I never see any worms.”

     My typical response is:  “Of all the parasites your pet can have, you may only ever see the adult versions of Tapeworms and Roundworms.  But you won’t see Hookworms, Whipworms, Giardia, or Coccidia, which are shed in microscopic egg form.” 

     The only way for us to discover a microscopic parasite, of course, is to examine the stool under a microscope.  And trust me, it is equally glamorous – if not more so – than your job of collecting, bagging, and transporting the sample. 

     A few weeks ago, I blogged about The Holy Grail of Microscope Slides, i.e. Tapeworm eggs.  I mentioned that Tapeworm eggs are a rarity on fecal exams, as compared to Roundworms and Hookworms.  I then posted a photo of a single lonely, lost little Hookworm egg from the same sample and noted how unusual it was that the Tapes outnumbered the Hooks.

     Today, I am pleased to present you with a photograph of a more typical sight.  Behold:

Hookworm eggs from a dog that is not on a heartworm/intestinal worm preventative.

     That’s a lot of Hookworm eggs for an adult dog.  However, if this were a puppy’s sample, the entire slide would be covered by those eggs.  Stop eating your dinner and think about that for a minute.

     Hookworms attach to your pet’s intestinal walls with – what else? – hooks in their disgusting little mouths.  A Hookworm infestation can lead to severe blood loss (fatal in untreated pups and kittens), bloody diarrhea, anemia and dehydration.  And if that weren’t bad enough, Hookworms are a zoonotic parasite, meaning people can get them, too.

     Dr. Miele has long been a proponent of year-round heartworm/intestinal worm preventative medication.  Why?  The proof is in the stool sample.  It is cold outside, but not cold enough to freeze the parasites.  The Hookworm eggs shown above were photographed at our office on February 4th.  

     Heartworm preventative medications are proven safe for year-round use.  When given as directed, the medications serve to protect your pets and your family from dangerous parasites.  As always, your dog must have a blood test to rule out active heartworm infestation before beginning a preventative medication.  ~~  Jen

     Just For Fun
     What do you think these round things might be?  Click the photo to enlarge and take your best guess.  I’ll post the answer in the comments sections tomorrow.

Click on photo to enlarge

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