An amoeba is a single-celled parasite that can infect dogs that ingest contaminated water or sewage. There are two types that can cause problems for your dog, entamoeba histolytica and acanthamoeba, and they can be found in saltwater or freshwater. An amoeba infection can also be spread between dogs through contact with infected faeces. This condition can be fatal if it's not treated promptly, so it's important to be aware of the signs and understand how an amoeba infection is diagnosed.
The symptoms of an amoeba infection are dependent on the type of amoeba present. Entamoeba histolytica can cause your dog to develop colitis, which is an inflammatory bowel disease that is characterised by chronic diarrhoea, passing blood, weight loss and abdominal pain. Additionally, entamoeba histolytica can travel through your dog's bloodstream to their organs and cause organ failure. Acanthamoeba can cause brain inflammation, which can lead to your dog experiencing poor coordination, confusion and seizures. This type of amoeba infection can also cause fever, nasal discharge and breathing problems, which may present as panting and lethargy.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
To diagnose an amoeba infection, your vet will take details of your dog's symptoms alongside blood and urine samples to check for inflammation, a raised white blood cell count or signs of infection, such as protein in the urine. These tests will also help your vet establish if your dog is dehydrated. A stool sample can be analysed for parasites, and if your dog is showing signs of colitis, a colonoscopy will be arranged. A biopsy of the colon will be performed during the colonoscopy, and this will be analysed for the presence of amoeba. If your dog is displaying neurological symptoms, an MRI of their brain will be required to check for inflammation.
If your dog is dehydrated, they will be given intravenous fluids, and your vet may also prescribe a painkiller or anti-inflammatory drug to relieve discomfort. If treated early, a course of anti-parasitic medication can be effective, and your vet will monitor your dog's response to treatment on an inpatient basis. If the infection has spread to the bloodstream, treatment may not be successful, but your vet will keep your dog as comfortable as possible.
If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or if you have any concerns they've been exposed to amoeba that can cause them harm, schedule an urgent appointment with your vet, and keep your dog away from other dogs until they get the all-clear from the vet.