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Protozoal Infection in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Protozoal infections are disorders caused by a variety of different organisms affecting multiple systems, causing a variety of many different signs and diseases.

General Causes

  • Giardiasis caused by Giardia species
  • Trichomoniasis caused by Pentatrichomonas hominis
  • Amebiasis caused by Entamoeba histolytica
  • Balantidiasis caused by Balantidium coli
  • Coccidiosis caused by Cystoisospora (most commonly)
  • Cryptosporidiosis caused by Cryptosporidium parvum
  • Toxoplasmosis caused by Toxoplasma gondii
  • Acanthamebiasis caused by Acanthamoeba species
  • Babesiosis caused by Babesia species
  • Cytauxzoonosis caused by Cytauxzoon felis
  • Leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania species
  • Trypanosomiasis caused by Trypanosoma cruzi
  • Hepatozoonosis caused by Hepatozoon canis
  • Encephalitozoonosis caused by Encephalitozoon cuniculi
  • Pneumocystosis caused by Pneumocystis carinii
  • Neosporosis caused by Neospora caninum

    What to Watch For

    Due to the many different organisms with a variety of effects on the individual, multiple signs are seen, depending on the particular organism.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Depression
  • Yellow color
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Seizures
  • Muscle spasm
  • Paralysis
  • Blindness

    Diagnosis

    Baseline tests include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile and urinalysis. Changes are variable, depending on the organ system(s) involved. Additional tests include:

  • Fecal evaluations

  • Chest and abdominal X-rays

  • Serologic testing

  • Direct organism identification, if possible, either via aspirate (removing and evaluating cells) or biopsy (evaluation of tissue)

    Treatment

    Depending on the specific protozoan organism, therapeutic recommendations will vary. Intensive supportive care may be indicated in some cases, such as fluids and blood transfusions. Depending on the protozoa, specific antibiotics and specific deworming agents may be necessary.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all medication as directed by your veterinarian. Contact your veterinarian at once if your pet is not responding to therapy and/or getting worse. Return for follow up examination and testing as recommended by your veterinarian.

    Prohibiting exposure to infected individuals can help prevent infection. Sanitation is important and avoiding contact with the intermediate host is important in prevention.

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