Coccidiosis in Goats

What is coccidiosis in goats?

Coccidiosis, or coccidia, is something all goat owners should be aware of. It is a common- and easily prevented and treated- illness in goats, but can have lifelong effects if it is left untreated in your herd.  It is a highly contagious parasite and it can spread through a goat herd quickly. Coccidia is a protozoan parasite that is almost always present in the environment and most goats are carriers.

Over the years most goats build up an immunity to this parasite, which is why young goats are especially susceptible to the effects of Coccidia. From about 3 weeks to 6 months of age, goat kids are at a higher risk due to their immune systems not being fully developed.

Coccidiosis is more common in the spring and summer as warm, wet climates tend to cause the parasite to multiply rapidly. It is important to treat quickly before any permanent damage to the goat is done. If treatment is not started in time the condition may become chronic and your goat may always have trouble with growth and health.

The first symptom is oftentimes diarrhea/scours. Also, with diarrhea/scours always comes dehydration. If I have a young goat- in the 3 week to 6 month range scouring, and I know it isn’t attributed to a change in feed, I will usually treat for coccidia just in case.

Common symptoms include:

  • Dehydration
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Fever
  • Weight Loss or Poor Growth
  • Hunched Appearance

Treatment must begin immediately or you risk permanent damage to the intestinal lining causing your goat to no longer be able to absorb nutrients from food.

It’s also always good to support your goat nutritionally when giving medications like this or when they are ill.I suggest giving them a few days of Nutri-drench and giving them a dose of Probios after treatment to replenish the good bacteria in their rumen. Injections of Fortified Vitamin B Complex will also help support their rumen.

To prevent dehydration, be sure to keep them hydrated with fresh water and electrolytes.

Do not feed grains while your goat is sick. Feed green leaves and hay until symptoms have subsided.

Furthermore, weight loss is substantial and will often be a chronic issue. Their development and size can also be stunted in severe cases.

What is the cause?

Coccidiosis is caused by a parasite passed through fecal-to-oral contact.
Young goat kids are most susceptible because their immune system is so under-developed. Adults over one year of age have built up immunity and it is rarely an issue with them. Also, dirty conditions in the goats housing and dirty water are usually the root causes.

How do you know if your goat has it?

Fecal testing is required to determine coccidiosis in goats. Most people always assume that diarrhea in kids means coccidia but that is not always the case so a fecal test will be definitive.

Here are two labs that are highly recommended for fecal testing: Meadowmist Lab Service and MidAmerica Ag Research.

How can it be used as a preventative?

It is always better to prevent than to treat! Coccidia is passed from the fecal matter to the mouth. So reducing contamination goes a long way in preventing outbreaks.

To prevent coccidiosis you should also take special care of your kids starting at 3-4 weeks of age. There are two medications you can use.

One way to do this is by dosing with Sulmet/Di-Methox once a month. The preventative dose is 1 cc/10 lbs on day one and 1 cc/20 lbs on days 2-5. Continue this treatment monthly until the kids are 6-7 month old.

The other drug called Toltrazuril has been used very effectively as a preventative. The Toltrazuril 5% solution acts as an effective tool for controlling coccidia-related problems.By damaging the intracellular developmental stages of Coccidia, toltraturazil works without damaging the cell tissue of the host animal. Also, Toltrazuril does not interfere with immune development.

The dose is 1cc per 5lbs of weight and is used as a preventive by giving orally at 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 weeks of age. Furthermore, be sure to keep your Toltrazuril bottle in the fridge.

In addition, a popular alternative is to feed young kids a grain containing a coccidiostat until they are about 6-7 months old to prevent an outbreak when they are most vulnerable. The problem with using a feed with coccidiostat is that you can’t be sure how much medication each of the kids are taking in. Especially since some kids don’t take to grain right away.

Weaning is a particularly tough time on kids. They can get stressed and are no longer getting any immunity passed to them from their mothers. Keep a close eye on them at this time and help them stay calm and as stress-free as possible. Extra nutritional support can help them through this dietary change without issue.

What is the treatment if a goat has it?

The most-effective over-the-counter drug we have used has been Di-Methox 40% solution. This is an effective sulfa-based drug that is given orally.

Many inexperienced people will recommend a product called CoRid to you but don’t use it unless absolutely nothing else is available.
CoRid will inhibit thiamine (B1) production which can cause more problems such as rumen issues and goat polio. Also, if you must use it be sure to give B1 injections with it.

The dosage for Di-Methox is 1cc per 5lbs on day 1 and then 1cc per 10lbs on days 2 through 5 given orally.
Lastly, give oral probiotics after the end of the day 5 treatment to make sure the rumen continues to work as it should.

How is the dehydration treated?

A dehydrated goat should receive electrolytes both in an oral drench and in the water supply. We use and recommend a great product made by Manna Pro called Bounce Back. Furthermore, during the hot summer days we add it to their drinking water daily. Lastly, you can use Gatorade can be used in emergencies.

Is it possible to prevent it?

The best protocol for prevention is by keeping pens and housing clean, water fresh, and their main area dry. Also, using a preventive like Toltrazuril is also a smart thing to do.

Conclusion

Preventive maintenance is the best thing you can do to keep your herd safe from coccidia. Get in the habit of mucking their housing once per week and changing waters daily.

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