Coccidiosis is an intestinal protozoa which can affect little kittens, but fortunately kittens can be treated with prompt diagnosis and medication. If your kitten has been diagnosed with a coccidiosis infection, a full and complete recovery is possible with veterinarian treatment, at home care and plenty of TLC.
Kittens generally become infected with coccidiosis by ingesting minute amounts of their mother’s feces, which can sometimes occur while nursing. Mama cats may become infected with coccidiosis by eating a mouse already infected with the protozoa, or through exposure to coccidiosis in the environment. Adult cats generally do not develop symptoms of coccidiosis infection, and often clear the protozoa on their own. However, kittens with developing immune systems can be affected more severely by coccidiosis.
Symptoms of coccidiosis appear almost two weeks after the initial infection. In kittens, coccidiosis infection can cause watery and bloody diarrhea, vomiting, pain and dehydration followed by rapid weight loss. If left untreated, coccidiosis in symptomatic kittens can lead to death. Because kittens can be quickly affected by diarrhea and vomiting, it is very important to have your little fur ball examined by a veterinarian immediately if any diarrhea and vomiting symptoms occur.
Coccidiosis is diagnosed through an examination of the kitten’s fecal material. Treatment for kittens affected by coccidiosis includes supportive care (for example, fluid therapies to combat dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea) and antibiotic treatment. "The Merck Veterinary Manual" suggests a treatment with sulfonamide antibiotics for a period of six days, but depending on the infection your veterinarian may recommend a one to two week antibiotic treatment. To reduce cross-infection with coccidiosis, your veterinarian may also advise treating the mother and any littermates for coccidiosis too, even if they have not developed any symptoms.
Care and Precautions
Because kittens can be affected so severely by coccidiosis infections, they need plenty of extra TLC and supervision during the treatment period. Watch kittens for any signs of additional weight loss or failure to eat, and contact a veterinarian right away if any of the kittens seem lethargic or depressed. To prevent re-infection, it is also important to keep the kitten, mother and any littermates as clean as possible. Change pet bedding at least a few times a day and clean water and food bowls regularly.
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