© squirrelrehabilitation.com, 2011 Diseases Coccidia/Coccidiosis Definition: Coccidia is a single-celled protozoan that invades the intestinal tract and destroys intestinal mucosa/cells by entering the cells and replicating until the cells burst. It is passed through feces and found in soil.  It is probably the most common parasite found in squirrels, and it is probable that most wild squirrels have coccidia to some extent.  Coccidiosis often shows no clinical signs in mature/healthy squirrels as their immune systems are able to keep it under control.  However, in young or otherwise compromised adults (ill or weakened), coccidia can proliferate and cause serious illness and even death.  The two squirrels pictured together below were the same approximate age (six weeks), as development of tail fur indicates.  The one on the left was infested with coccidia while the one on the right was coccidia-free and weighed twice as much as the other.  All squirrels should receive a fecal exam, but any time one is a “runt,” does not grow as quickly as it should, fecal exams are imperative (more than one exam needs to be conducted several days apart because coccidia sheds oocysts intermittently). See pictures below of coccidia under a microscope. Etiology/Causes: Contact with infected feces or contaminated soil.  Symptoms: 1.  Lethargic 2.  Lack of appetite/weight loss 3.  Diarrhea (but not always) 4.  Blood in stool from ruptured cells 5.  Fever 6.  Slow or stunted growth in young squirrels 7.  Failure to thrive Treatment: Medical 1.  The antibiotics Albon and Bactrim (Sulfatrim, SMZ-TMP) are most commonly used to treat for coccidia.  They      are usually given for 14 days. However, two fecal exams should be conducted after this time period (a few      days apart), and if not clear of oocysts, treatment should continue for another 7 days. UPDATE 26 June 2011:  A drug that is relatively new to small mammal veterinary care but has proven to be very effective for the treatment of coccidia is called “Ponazuril.”  This drug does not simply inhibit replication of coccidia but actually kills it.  A GREAT advantage to this drug is that it requires only one or two doses.  Please consult your veterinarian. Supportive 1.  Keep the squirrel isolated from others. 2.  Keep squirrel well hydrated and fed. 3.  Keep caging and bedding clean so as not to reinfect itself. References: Merck Veterinary Manual, 10th ed. Brooks, Wendy C. DVM.  The Pet Health Library. Tabor’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 20th ed. Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook, Sixth Edition. Click to enlarge Type:  Parasitic These first two pictures are of the most common type of coccidia found in squirrels The following pictures show a less commonly found form of coccidia from the genus Eimeria.  Unlike the type pictured above, this form has an operculated or “plugged” end. It is suspected that this form of coccidia may produce a neurotoxin that can result in neurological symptoms, including seizures and paralysis.