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Cryptosporidium

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Overview

Cryptosporidiosis is a disease caused by microscopic parasites (known as Cryptosporidium) that leads to severe diarrhoea. Both animals and people can be infected and once infected, the parasite nests itself in the intestines before passing in the stool. Cryptosporidium are very resilient to disinfectants like chlorine because this particular parasite has a strong outer membrane that allows it to survive for long periods of time outside the body. This parasite is actually very wide spread and may be found in recreational and drinking waters throughout the United States. In fact, crypto (as it is commonly known) is one of the most common waterborne diseases affecting humans in North America. Cryptosporidium live in the intestines and crypto germs are released when infected humans or animals defecate. Therefore, cryptosporidium parasites are found in food, soil, and water that have been in contact with human or animal stool. Ingesting the parasite leads to developing crypto.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Common symptoms of cryptosporidium include dehydration, weight loss, stomach pains, fever, nausea, and vomiting. The most common symptom of cryptosporidium is watery diarrhoea. Still, some people and animals will exhibit no symptoms at all making cryptosporidium difficult to diagnose at times. Proper diagnosis of crypto involves examining and identifying the cryptosporidium parasite under microscope. If your pet is suspected of having contracted crypto, your vet will request that your pet has a cryptosporidium test which will require a blood sample. If your pet is immune compromised in any way, then a test for crypto should be standard. Diarrhoea is often a symptom of immune diseases so crypto can often be overlooked in these populations.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no common treatment for cryptosporidiosis. Instead, treating the diarrhoea should be your main focus. Be sure that your pet is receiving plenty of water to counteract any dehydration they may be suffering from. Also, a plain diet that will not upset the stomach is recommended. Some pets may respond well to anti-bacterial treatment but vets are reluctant to take this course. Chances are good that anti-bacterial treatments will not cure the cryptosporidiosis and unnecessary anti-bacteria prescriptions will ultimately lead to highly resistant bacteria. Anti-diarrhoea drugs are also useful to prevent diarrhoea and provide temporary release but remember that diarrhoea actually serves a function. In order to rid the body of the parasite, the immune system increases the amount of water delivered to the intestines resulting in diarrhoea. The most important steps you can take as a pet owner to protect your animals suffering from cryptosporidiosis is to ensure they are receiving a very nutritious diet. Because many nutrients are excreted during diarrhoea and not absorbed into the system it is even more important to provide your pet with a nutrient rich diet. Discuss your options with a veterinarian in order to determine your best course of action.

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