Cryptosporidium In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

This was a stool smear micrograph revealing Cryptosporidium parvum as the cause of this patient's Cryptosporidiosis. Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that can live in the intestines of humans and animals. The parasite is protected by an outer she

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Cryptosporidium in dogs is a water-borne protozoan parasite that most commonly affects dogs who play in bodies of fresh water, and it can cause severe diarrhea among other symptoms. An infection with cryptosporidium is called cryptosporidiosis.

The parasite is excreted in the feces of infected animals, and when those animals defecate in bodies of fresh water, the contamination can affect other animals, like dogs, that drink or accidentally ingest the water. Contact with contaminated food or direct contact with infected feces can also transmit cryptosporidium.

Most healthy dogs can fight off the infection, but dogs with compromised immune systems are at greater risk for developing symptoms, which may be life-threatening if the infection goes untreated.

If you see the signs of cryptosporidiosis in your dog, then you must consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for cryptosporidium in dogs.

Symptoms Of Cryptosporidium In Dogs

[b]Cute female beagle puppy looking around anxiously, while relieving herself by the sea. There are visible sand particles on the puppy's fur. [

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The symptoms of cryptosporidium in dogs can vary in severity.

Some dogs are able to fight off the infection without showing any signs of illness, while other dogs only experience mild, short-lived symptoms. Some dogs, especially those with compromised immune systems, can’t fight the infection off and experience very severe gastrointestinal distress.

Here are some of the symptoms that appear in dogs infected with cryptosporidium:

  • Violent, watery diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Lethargy
  • Increased thirst
  • Dehydration

Causes Of Cryptosporidium In Dogs

Dirty french bulldog playing in the field

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The most common cause of cryptosporidium in dogs is accidental ingestion of contaminated water. This is common in dogs who like to play in lakes, rivers, or streams.

Bodies of fresh water can harbor several kinds of bacteria and parasites, and it only takes a few of the cryptosporidium parasites to cause an infection.

Direct contact with feces from an infected animal or eating off of a contaminated surface where an infected animal has defecated can also cause infection. It’s important that you do not let your dog eat food left in the wild because you can’t tell if it’s contaminated.

Most dogs are able to fight off the infection, but dogs with compromised immune systems are at greater risk. These include dogs who are already suffering from other infections, dogs with certain medical conditions, puppies whose immune systems haven’t fully developed, and senior dogs.

Treatments For Cryptosporidium In Dogs

Puppy drinking water

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Treatment for cryptosporidium in dogs depends on the severity of the condition. You must consult your vet if you see symptoms.

Most dogs are able to fight off the infection on their own without medical intervention within three to twelve days, but some dogs require additional treatment. Dogs who suffer from severe dehydration may also need intravenous fluids.

Vets generally recommend limiting food intake until the diarrhea calms down. Plenty of fluids and a high fiber diet may help fight dehydration and diarrhea.

Sometimes vets prescribe antiparasitic medications, especially for immune compromised dogs. Usually they allow the disease to run its course while monitoring dogs and giving supportive care to prevent dehydration and other complications.

Has your dog ever gotten sick after swimming in fresh water? How did you treat them? Let us know in the comments below!