Coccidia are singled-celled organisms (protozoa) that can infect animals, leading to diarrhea and occasionally blood in the stool. Infection is common in both dogs and cats but typically does not cause illness. As a matter of fact, almost all cats will be infected with coccidia at least once in their life. While it is uncommon for signs of illness to occur, puppies, kittens, and immunocompromised pets are most at risk for coccidiosis, the disease caused by coccidia that can make the animal very sick.
Infection occurs when an animal accidentally ingests coccidia shed through the feces of an infected animal. Oftentimes, coccidia is transmitted through contact with a contaminated object or environment, such as water or soil that have been tainted with feces. Different species of coccidia infect different animals. From what we know, species that infect dogs do not infect cats and vice versa. One particular coccidia species that is common in cats, Toxoplasma gondii, is dangerous for humans, particularly pregnant individuals, as it can cause Toxoplasmosis.
Giardia are single-celled organisms (protozoa) that can infect both people and pets, such as dogs, cats, and even chinchillas. Giardiasis (the disease caused by Giardia) can lead to diarrhea and occasionally blood in the stool and vomiting. Giardia live in the small intestine and have two lifecycle stages: the first is the cyst stage. These cysts are inactive and shed through feces. Shedding of cysts can last days or even weeks. Once the cysts are ingested by a host, they mature and multiply in the small intestine. These mature parasites go on to produce cysts and the cycle is repeated.
Infection occurs when an animal or person accidentally ingests the cysts shed through the feces of an infected animal. Oftentimes, Giardia is transmitted through contact with a contaminated object or environment, such as water or soil that have been tainted with feces. Different species of Giardia infect different animals. From what we know, species that infect dogs do not infect cats and vice versa. It is also quite rare for the dog species to infect humans.
Spaying and neutering are sterilization procedures which prevent a pet’s ability to reproduce. “Spay” is the colloquial term for the surgical removal of female reproductive organs and “neuter” is the colloquial term for the removal of male reproductive organs.
Kittens are most commonly spayed or neutered as a routine measure to prevent future pregnancies and the development of certain diseases. Spaying and neutering help to save approximately 4 million pet lives each year (the number of unwanted dogs and cats euthanized in animal shelters across the US). Spaying and neutering are highly recommended unless your cat is to be used for breeding.
Sometimes, spaying or neutering is a treatment for certain diseases and conditions. For example, unspayed females can develop a life-threatening uterine infection called pyometra that requires emergency surgery to remove the uterus. Males with testicular diseases or injuries, such as testicular torsion or testicular cancer, may also require the removal of their testicles for treatment. An enlarged prostate or a prostatic infection are treated by neutering as well.
Pyometra is a serious bacterial infection of the uterus that occurs most often in older, intact (unspayed) female dogs and cats. The most common bacterium identified in pyometra is E. coli, which typically originates in the feces and ascends through the vagina into the uterus. The infection tends to occur about a month after the dog or cat has been in heat. If unrecognized and untreated, pyometra can lead to a systemic infection or blood poisoning.
Pyometra is often described as being “open” or “closed.” With “open” pyometra, the cervix (the part of the uterus that connects with the vagina) is open, allowing the fluid that forms in the uterus due to the infection to drain out of the body through the vagina.
With “closed” pyometra, where the cervix is closed, the fluid in the uterus cannot drain through the vagina. Instead, it builds up, stretching the uterine walls and potentially causing the the uterus to rupture. If this occurs, the infection may spread throughout the abdomen leading to shock and, potentially, death.
X-ray showing pyometra in a dog
X-ray showing pyometra in a cat
Ear infections are a relatively common condition in dogs and cats and occur in all age groups. In a study drawing information from nearly 1 million dogs in the UK, 7% of dogs experienced an ear infection annually. The typical ear infection causes inflammation of the ear canal, the tube that carries sound to the eardrum. This inflammation is known as otitis externa because it affects the outer ear. Otitis media and otitis interna affect the middle and inner ear respectively. Middle and inner ear infections are much more serious conditions that can ultimately lead to neurologic signs such as a head tilt or dizziness and loss of hearing.
Otitis externa can have multiple causes, including allergies, bacteria, yeast, parasites (such as ear mites), or foreign bodies.