Yellow-tan pasty diarrhea
in Puppies & Kittens
Home        How we treat different medical problems in pets; What to Expect        FoxNest Hospital       About our No Kill Shelter       
The History of Veterinary Medicine         The Human-Animal Bond    
There is a complete site map at the bottom of this page

Coccidiosis is the Name of the Disease

Coccidia is the name of the parasitic, protozoa organism that causes the problem ... mostly in very young pets

Diarrhea, Nausea, and GI Irritation lasting weeks are the main Symptoms


Young pups and kittens, like most other infant and young mammals are prone to getting diarrhea.  There are a bunch of possible causes;

1.  viral
2.  bacterial
3.  intestinal worms like round, tape, hook and whip worms

4.  food poisoning
5.  amoebic
6.  eating of irritating non-food items such as sticks, & dirt

7.  change of food or water
8.  food too rich
9.  food intolerances (such as the fairly common intolerance to cow's milk)

10.  toxic or bad milk if still nursing
11.  anxiety and stress
12.  metabolic reasons such as a poorly functioning liver pancreas

13.  medications  ( amoxicillin suspension being used for a sinus infection for example)
14.  too much television

Okay, maybe not that last one.  But here's one more: 


There are zillions of different types of protozoa out there in nature...little microscopic, simple creatures that we more complex mammals inhale and ingest without knowing on a regular basis.  They are way, way, down there on the food chain.  They apparently do us very little harm as far as we know.  Who knows though, maybe they're the cause of true love and stuff like that. 

I am getting way, way, off track again.  Back to Coccidia:

Coccidia just happens to be one of the few protozoan organisms that sometimes causes trouble in pets.  (and a lot of problems in chicks, piglets, calves, and other baby livestock.) Most dogs and cats develop mature, effective immune systems by about 4 months of age, and if exposed to coccidia, the organism will probably establish itself in the rich mucosa cells of the intestine causing mild irritation and diarrhea for a day or two, but because of the immune system keeping it at bay, the organism won't multiple into high numbers and the symptoms won't last long.

What this means from a practical stand point is that older pets will probably have no or very minor symptoms if exposed to coccidia... but they will then be carriers of the organism and spread it around the environment where it might affect animals that are more susceptible.  Young puppies and kittens tend to be very susceptible.
Luckily, we humans are not usually affected by the strains of coccidia that dogs and cats carry. (the different strains of coccidia tend to be species specific)

Puppys and kittens are under 4 months of age, have weak, immature immune systems, so the oppertunistic little buggers (I'm talking about the coccidia now) can establish colonies in the intestinal mucosa causing disease.  I've listed the most common symptoms below.   (Sometimes older pets get coccidiosis too, if their immune system is poorly developed for genetic reasons, or weak from poor nutrition or parasitism, or suppressed by steroids and other medications.)

-Long term diarrhea which will lead to dehydration and weakness

-Inflammation and damage of the intestinal wall which then allows toxins and bowel bacteria to enter the general circulation

-Cramps, nausea, and the discomfort and anxiety of gut pain

-Further suppression of the immune system due to the dehydration and weakness leading to chills, pneumonia, etc

Most young puppies and kittens who get coccidia successfully fight off the disease either on their own or with conservative treatment...but not always...get your baby pets into a vet if diarrhea persists for more than 2-3 days or sooner if they stop eating, and aren't bright, alert, and playful.

A couple more introductory comments:

Usually the diarrhea associated with coccidia is a custard yellow or tannish pudding in color and consistancy...but not always.

Usually the disease is a serious problem only in the very young...but not always.  In situations where the immune system is under stress or suppressed (such as in pregnancy, field trials, shows, in the presence of other diseases, other parasites, malnutrition, etc), coccidia can cause serious intestinal inflammation along with all the sequelae.

Usually we can quickly diagnois the problem using our veterinary skill and knowledge (and a good microscope)...but not always.  The little eggs (technically they're called oocysts) that we can identify under the microscope aren't always there, even if the disease is present.  You have to be lucky enough to catch the problem in the right phase of their life cycle.

If we are unable to identify the organism under the microscope, we often make the diagnoisis anyway based on our experience.  We have to be a little careful, though, not to confuse the symptoms with a similar disease caused by another organism...this time an Giardia.  The symptoms are very similar but the treatment is different.  Giardia can be very difficult to diagnose.  Click here to go to our page about amoebic dysentery caused by Giardia.  (it's largely because of this organism that you shouldn't drink water from a creek, stream, or river without purifying it first)

Usually we can quickly get the problem under control using inexpensive medications...but not always.  Problems include strains of coccida that have become resistant to our medications, kittens and puppies that are just too weak to fight the disease, and frequently because our diagnosis is incomplete; a lot of times babies are bombarded with multiple germs and parasites.  Germs and parasites are like a gang of street thugs, they like to prey on the weak and helpless.

Treatment usually consists of using one of the potentiated sulfur based antibiotics.  For tough cases I'm having success using a horse medication called Marquis. 

In addition we also use one or more of the following types of medications:

Something to stop the diarrhea such as loperamide, kaopectate, pepto, paragoric, bella donna alkaloids, herbals, oragano oils, etc.

Some vets like to recommend general immune boosters such as vitamins, interferon, anti-oxidants, etc

Anti-microbials such as metronidazole or antibiotics.

And, of course, IV Fluids and aggressive supportive care if weak, or dehydrated.

Preventing the spread  to other pups and kittens with good
hygiene and cleaning to minimize fecal contamination is important.

Okay, that's the basics.  I think there's more information about coccidia and how I treat this disease on our Parasite Page

Here's more information if you like details and specifics:

The species or type of coccidia that commonly cause problems in dogs is called Isospora.  There are 4 different sub-species of isospora that affect dogs.  I. canis   I. ohioensis (named after the State)    I. neorivolta, and I. burrowsi.
Isospora is also the most common species to affect cats but the sub-species tend to be  I. felis and I. rivolta

On This Page:

A little about the protozoan parasite called Coccidia

Our Home or Introductory page about intestinal problems in dogs and cats

Intestinal problems
with other parasites:

Round Worms
Hook Worms
Whip Worms
Tape Worms

Other diseases
and problems
of the intestinal tract:

Parvo Virus
Liver Disease
Food Allergies

Problems with the Esophagus

Colitis: Chronic problems with the lower bowel

Garbagitis: Acute intestinal upset due to overeating, eating treats, rancid food, and eating inappropriate objects, or eating too much hair.

Nutritional Treatment and Management of Intestinal Problems
Website Directory

Home    The Human-Animal Bond     The History of Veterinary Medicine    About our No Kill Shelter     The FoxNest Veterinary Hospital     

"What To Expect When You Go To The Vet"
if your pet should have a problem with ...

Abscesses, wounds, and injuries

Arthritis, Lameness, Fractures, and Ligament Injuries
To include Femoral Head Removal, Hip Dysplasia, Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries, Panosteitis, Radiographic Demonstrations, Disc Disease, and Bone Surgery

Bladder, Urinary Tract, & Kidney Problems

Blood Diseases, Anemias etc
Strokes, Vascular Diseases, Anemias, DVT, DIC, Blood Parasites, Rat Poison, & Bleeding disorders

Cancer, Masses, Lumps and Bumps

Cardiology  Heart disease in Cats, Cardiac Hypertrophy, Valvular disease, Cardiac Insufficiency, Congestive Heart Failure, Heartworm Disease, and a little history about the milestones in treating heart disease

Cats: general information page and directory of diseases and problems specific to cats including vaccine recommendations, leukemia, feline viral infections, feline upper respiratory disease and cats that just aren't feeling well.

Dentistry and problems of the mouth and throat

Dermatology: Skin problems including allergies, rashes, bacterial infections, and itching. Hair Loss, Yeast Infections, Hormonal Problems


Ear Infections and Other Ear Problems

Eye Problems  and Ophthalmic Diseases

Exotics:  Pocket Pets, Rabbits, Hamsters etc

Fleas, Ticks, and other parasite problems

Heart disease; Cardiac diseases, vascular diseases, stroke, & heartworms

Hormone Diseases: Diabetes, Thyroid Disease, Cushing's Disease or Hypercortisolism, Addison's disease or Hypocortisolism, Pancreatitis, obesity as a disease

Infectious Diseases  Colds, Distemper, Parvo, Leptospirosis, Bruceellosis, Panleukopenia, Feline AIDS, Leukemia, Hepatitis, Kennel Cough, Ringworm, Rabies, FIP, Canine Herpes, Toxic Shock Syndrome, & More

Intestinal problems: diarrhea, constipation, torsion, indigestion, and gas. Also pancreatitis, vomiting, esophagitis, colitis, parvo and other types of dysentery

Kidney Disease

Liver Diseases     

Metabolic Diseases: Diabetes, Thyroid Disease, Cushing's Disease or Hypercortisolism, Addison's disease or Hypocortisolism, Pancreatitis, obesity as a disease

Neural Problems and Diseases: Epilepsy, Rabies, Distemper, FIP, Paralysis, Tetanus, Seizures, Disc Disease, Toxoplasmosis & others

Obesity; new information and about Pfizer's new FDA approved treatment


Parasite Problems Fleas, Ticks, Heartworms, Intestinal Worms, Mosquitos, Lice, Mites, and other welfare recipients

Poisons  Snakes, Insects, household chemicals, plants, and foods that might poison your pet

Respiratory Diseases

Senior Pet Page: Geriatric Medicine

Skeletal-Muscular Problems Arthritis, Fractures, ACL, Ligament Injuries, Disc Disease, Pannus, and many other problems of the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments

Skin Problems: allergies, rashes, bacterial infections, and itching. Hair Loss, Yeast Infections, Hormonal Problems

Surgery: Spays, Castrations, Testicle Recipes, Soft Tissue Surgery, Hard Tissue Surgery (Bones), C- Sections, Declawing, Tumor Removal and Cancer Surgery

Wounds, punctures, injuries, and abscesses

Urinary Tract Diseases and Problems

Other Topics on This Site

The Human-Animal Bond

History of Veterinary Medicine; lots of interesting stuff    

Zoonotics: Diseases, worms, and parasites people get from pets.

Lab Tests and what they tell us

Medications/Pharmacy Page

Nutrition & Diets
Includes information about Prescription diets used to treat disease, and a discussion about the pet food industry

Reproduction, breeding, & rearing information
Includes information about feline and canine heat or estrus, breeding, C-Sections, pyometra or Infected Uterus, dystocia, no milk, mastitis, & brucellosis
Also newborn care, undescended testicles, and alternative to spaying and castration

Vaccine and other preventive health recommendations

WildLife Page:  Taking care of baby bunnies, squirrels, and birds.  A very funny story about beavers, and other misc information

Our Dog Page:  a directory of problems of concern in dogs including parvovirus, distemper, canine herpes, and other diseases

Veterinary Pet Insurance

Here's their life cycle:

Isospora spp. have developmental stages both within the host animal and outside. The developmental stages within the dog give rise to a microscopic egg (called an oocyst), which is passed in the feces.

Depending on the environmental temperature, moisture, and available oxygen, the oocyst develops within three to five days to form a sporulated oocyst capable of infecting other dogs.
(At this stage, the oocyst contains two sporocysts, each with four bodies (called sporozoites))

When the pet eats the microscoptic oocyst (not on purpose) each sporozoite is capable of penetrating an intestinal cell inside the pet.
Once successfully inside an intestinal cell, they are fruitful and multiply.

Each offspring in turn may enter other intestinal cells. This cycle may be repeated several times. Unfortunately for the pet, this process causes alot of damage to the intestinal mucosa lining the GI tract.

Coccidia SEX

Eventually, the work of multiplying by dividing stops and sex cells  are produced. The male fertilizes the female to produce an oocyst that ruptures from the intestinal cells and is passed in the feces, which then contaminates the ground.  After developing for a few days, these oocysts become capable of infesting the next unlucky victim.  Thousands of oocysts may be passed in the feces of an infected animal.

Simply finding oocysts in the feces of a dog does not necessarily indicate the presence of coccidiosis. Many oocysts may pass in the feces, even in dogs that appear clinically normal. However, dogs passing large numbers of oocysts should be treated to reduce environmental contamination.

Coccidiosis often results from overcrowded, dirty living conditions. Drinking water and feed should be protected from fecal contamination.

Infected animals should be isolated from the rest and treated. Removing dogs from contaminated areas interrupts the life cycle of the parasite and helps control the disease.

Other Topics on this web site that you might find interesting:
There's a complete directory of links
at the bottom of the page


History of Veterinary Medicine; lots of interesting stuff    

A tribute to Dr Harvey Cushing

Where does your pet food come from?

History of the Discovery of Antibiotics

The Human-Animal Bond
Comments & Stories about this topic close to my heart

Cats: Fun or interesting stuff about cats and a discussion about the diseases common in our feline companions to include Leukemia, Feline AIDS, & Cat Scratch Fever.

Dogs:  a hodge podge page of stuff about dogs.

Pet Insurance:
Why I like and recommend Pet Insurance

Zoonotics: Diseases People get from Pets, Worms & other Parasites People get from Pets.


On Our Other Sites

About  Our No Kill Shelter   

About Our  Veterinary Clinic  

Coccidia under the microscope
Coccidia causes severe disease in chicks and young livestock ... but the species, sub-species, and strains of coccidia are (mostly) different for each type of mammal
Coccidia organisms tend to be specific for each type of mammal, but one of the exceptions is the coccidia organism known as toxoplasma.  This particular type of coccidia is notorious for causing birth defects in humans and the host for this organism is the cat.  Although most people get exposed from eating vegetables and meat contaminated by the organism... not directly from the cat.  We have a separate page devoted to Toxoplasmosis