Coccidia is forever present among Shih Tzu and other canine breeds
Coccidia is a common problem in Shih Tzu and other breed. It is most serious in cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry. In dogs, cats, and horses, it is less often diagnosed, but can result in clinical illness in some animals, which includes the Shih Tzu. Coccidiosis is actually “always” present among canines, but not all dogs or Shih Tzu show clinical signs of the disease. Shih Tzu puppies and other breeds of puppies as well are especially susceptible to coccidiosis and it can be fatal for a puppy.
Symptoms of coccidiosis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss or no weight gain
- Sometimes death, especially in Shih Tzu or other dog breed puppies
Clinical coccidia is most prevalent under the following conditions:
- Poor nutrition
- Poor sanitation or overcrowding
- After the stresses of weaning, shipping, sudden changes in feed or severe weather changes
Shih Tzu can acquire coccidia between one month of age and one year of age. Older Shih Tzu is usually resistant to clinical signs, but may have sporadic symptoms and may remain carriers. This is especially true of Shih Tzu mothers who can pass coccidia onto her offspring during nursing, yet show no signs of the parasite herself.
Diagnosis under microscope can be difficult. It is not always possible to find coccidia in single fecal samples. Multiple fecal examinations may be required to make a definitive diagnosis under microscope.
Treatment of coccidia
The life cycles of Eimeria and Isospora (the germs that cause coccidian) are considered self-limiting and end spontaneously within a few weeks unless a re-infection occurs. In other words your Shih Tzu and Shih Tzu puppies could have coccidia and recover without any kind of treatment. It is important to remember that coccidia is most likely forever present wherever there is more than one and especially several Shih Tzu adults and/or puppies.
A good rule to follow is to always treat very young Shih Tzu puppies, or Shih Tzu puppies at least 6 weeks of age with 5 to 10 days of medication such as Albon. Prompt medication may slow or inhibit development of stages that may result from re-infection (which could be the case of a nursing adult Shih Tzu mom) and thus shorten the length or magnitude of the illness. A treatment plan such as this will also alleviate or prevent diarrhea, lessen the likelihood of secondary infections and death.
Sick Shih Tzu or Shih Tzu puppies should be isolated (this would be Shih Tzu definitely showing signs of infection of the parasites that cause coccidia. Sulfonamides has been reported to give excellent clinical results in beef and dairy, calves, sheep, dogs and cats.
Prevention of coccidia
Prevention plans are based upon limiting the intake of sporulated oocysts which causes coccidia so that an infection is established to create immunity (since coccidia is most likely present or could become present at anytime especially when several Shih Tzu are housed together). This practice should help to avoid clinical signs such as diarrhea, etc., of coccidia. Prevention includes good management which includes:
- Newborns should always receive colostrum (obtained from mother’s milk to help build their immune system and ward off all canine diseases). In the case of orphan Shih Tzu puppies, be sure to feed your orphan Shih Tzu puppies commercial milk with colostrum.
- Young Shih Tzu puppies should be housed in clean and dry quarters.
- Feeding and watering devices should be clean and disinfected with a solution of water and Clorox bleach
- Feeding and watering devices should be protected from fecal contamination.
- Stresses to the young Shih Tzu puppy should be kept at minimum
Some Shih Tzu puppies react adversely to weaning and seem to absolutely refuse to be weaned from their mothers. This type of Shih Tzu puppy is experiencing stress and should be watched and handled with extra care during the weaning process. They are a candidate to acquire “stress coccidia.” During weaning time, you can also try giving this type of Shih Tzu puppy medication (as long as the puppy is 6 weeks or older, or at the advice of your vet).
Shipping and sudden changes in feed can also trigger an episode of coccidia in some Shih Tzu puppies that experience stress and fear during these processes.
As a new owner of a Shih Tzu puppy, just always keep in mind the puppy you purchased may have been kept in the best of quarters and taken care of with hands of expertise, yet will still present you with a coccidia problem upon arrival in a new environment solely due to the stressors of change.
You might compare the “stress coccidia” in Shih Tzu puppies to some individuals who experience “stomach upset” when first boarding and riding an airplane. Some individuals may arrive at their destination in great shape, no problems at all, fit to spend the next 24 hours in the flashing lights of the big city. Other individuals may have to spend the next 24 hours resting in a bed closest to the nearest bathroom for vomiting and diarrhea.
Coccidia is something a new Shih Tzu puppy and any breed of dog owner should always be aware of can occur. Be on the watch for an animal who just lies around as with “fatigue” and/or has some vomiting or diarrhea. Sometimes there might be a little blood or mucous in the diarrhea as well to alert you that a vet visit is in order very soon. Very young Shih Tzu puppies can die easily from coccidia of any origin.