Causes, Prevention, Treatment, & More

Sue Reith
Carmelita Toggs
Bainbridge, WA

Followed by Reality Check!  By Bill Braun, DVM

printed here with kind permission of Sue Reith

What is the best preventative measure for coccidiosis……and if that doesn’t work what is the best treatment?

Very clean kidding pens and housing facilities for the new babies are the best preventative.  It is well known that the first kids born, if they are born on clean bedding and housed in clean pens, are very growthy in the spring, and their own immune systems, as they develop over the next few months, are very able to make antibodies to the few coccidia they are exposed to from the momentof birth.  If the next and subsequent kids are born on that same bedding and housed also in the same kid pens, without benefit of complete sanitization between groups, then the later in the season they are born, the more exposure they have to the coccidia building up in the bedding from that critical time ofbirth when they have absolutely no immune systems going for them at all, and by spring they are generally looking rather scrawny and undersized, a classic symptom of coccidiosis, in contrast to the first kids born that season in the clean environment, that are growthy and thriving.

It is important to add here that should those later kids fail to be treated to correct that scrawny and undersized condition, their future health will be permanently affected.  The presence of coccidia at the level which causes obviously impaired growth and condition in the kid will, at the same time, cause great damage to the walls of the intestinal tract through which the nutrients pass into the goat’s system.  When this sort of internal damage takes place it is irreversible, and the animal’s ability to absorb the nutrients it ingests will be permanently curtailed, subjecting it, should it survive, to a lifetime of unthriftiness.  It goes without saying that the sooner coccidiosis is treated in a kid during that first year of life, the more likely it will be to be able to live a productive life.

The best treatment is the oral sulfa.  You can buy Albon, or its generic, sulfadimethoxine, recommended over some of the other forms of sulfa for its only-one-dose-per-day property.  You can buy it in the catalogs. Sulfadimethoxine is available in the form of: gallons of oral sulfa (intended to put in large quantities into the cattle waterers, so it needs to be broken down into kid-sized individual doses); and boluses; and tablets (prescription item);and injectable… And you need to dose the INDIVIDUAL kids by weight, doubling the 1st dose, and then giving a regular dose the next 4 days after that, which will do a very good job of wiping out the coccidia in them at the time you treat.  The dose of oral Albon (generic is sulfadimethoxine) is 12.5 milligrams per pound. Remember, milligrams (mg) are not the same as millileters (ml). The label will tell you how many mg there are in every ml.

Overview of Coccidia Treatments Used Routinely for Goats by Sue Reith

Coccidiosis is treated in a variety of ways. Treatments with amprolium (CoRid is a common brand name), and decoquinate (Deccox is a common brand name), and sulfa, sulfadimethoxine, sulfamethazine (Albon is a common brand name),are all routinely used to control this problem.

Amprolium is a coccidiastat, which means that instead of killing off the coccidia it simply keeps it from producing for a couple of weeks to slow down its advance in the system.  A serious downside is that it is a thiaminase substance, so that when dosed in sufficient quantities it has the capability of destroying the necessary thiamine within a goat’s rumen, causing potentially lethal polioencephalomalacia in the goat as a result.

Decoquinate is generally fed routinely and long term to young kids to prevent the development of coccidia within them in the early stages, before the immune system kicks in.  Its downside is that it is expensive and requires daily dosing in the milk or the feed.

Sulfa is the most effective way to treat coccidia in the goat.  Sulfadimethoxine has the advantage management-wise over other forms of sulfa, because it requires only 1X daily treatment, as opposed to the 2X daily treatment required by all other forms of sulfa.  I am personally highly in favor of dosing each kid individually by weight, to ensure maximum efficiency in the treatment.  Also, while kids are being treated with sulfa it is essential to have plenty of freshwater available to them at all times.

Albon is the best known brand of sulfadimethoxine, and there are several generic brands as well.  Additionally, there are several non-prescription forms of sulfadimethoxine available for use. Sulfa in all of the available forms is dosed at the rate of 25mg/1lb of goat the first day, and 12.5mg/1lb of goat daily for the next 4 days.

The available (non-prescription) forms are:

  1. Oral liquid, 1 gallon, 12.5%, designed to be used in the water of cattle, or as an individual drench.
  2. Injectable, 40%, designed to be used intravenously, but routinely administered by owners to their goats subcutaneously.
  3. Boluses, 5 grams each, designed to be dosed orally with a balling gun.

Sulfadimethoxine 12.5% oral liquid is in a gallon bottle for use in drinking water when treating cattle, and it can be used as a drench as well.  It is dose done time daily for 5 days in a row.  When using it as a drench, the first oral dose (always double) is 20cc/100lbs of goat.  The next 4 oral doses are 10cc/100lb of goat.

Sulfadimethoxine 40% inj contains 400mg of sulfadimethoxine per ml, which at the rate of 25mg per pound of goat the first day, and then 12.5mg per pound daily for the next 4 days, would be injected SQ at the rate of 1ml per 16 lb of goat the first day, then 1ml per 32 lbs of goat daily for the remaining 4 days of treatment.

Sulfadimethoxine is also available in boluses, with each goat/sheep sized bolus containing 5 grams of sulfadimethoxine.  If using these, 1/2 bolus would treat 100lb of goat the first day, and 1/2 bolus would treat 200lb of goat daily for the next 4 days.  A balling gun would be used for administration.

Addendum 2016/ G. McIntyre – we have been using a product that was not common when this article was written.  Toltrazuril (Baycox) is very effective for us, a simple preventative in the form of 1cc/5lb doses given to kids starting at 4 weeks, and following up once a month until 6 months of age.  (Same dosage for treatment.)

Reality Check!!!

By Bill Braun, DVM.

Dr Braun is currently an associate professor of veterinary medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri. He previously taught at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University. He is a board certified theriogenologist, a recognized specialist in animal reproduction. In the past he has been an associate and contributing editor and author for the Dairy Goat Journal. Dr. Braun just finished as section editor and author for the section on goat reproduction to be published this year. (1996)

Coccidiosis is a disease and it is a parasite.  As a parasite it needs a host of some sort in order to live and reproduce. Coccidia DO NOT live in the ground, they eventually die in the ground.  The only part of their life cycle that is in the ground, and therefore outside of the host’s body is in the form of oocysts.  Think of these as eggs, as in intestinal worm eggs.  It’s the same sort of principle.  Oocysts on the ground will eventually die, the speed of that die off depends on the temperature, amount of sunlight and how much moisture is present.  Freezing (winter) will kill them and hot, dry conditions will also do them in. The reason it seems that coccidia are more active as the weather warms up and the rains come is because fewer of the oocysts are dying off, therefore, there are more present to infest or infect their next victim.

The victim: Each coccidia species has its own particular host and will not tolerate another.  There are coccidia for chickens, for sheep, for goats, for cows and so on. They typically do not cross to other species, other than sheep and goats share a few of the coccidia types.  Their usual victims are the young, in this case the current year’s kid crop.  The young pick up the oocysts from eating things that are contaminated with feces (goat berries) that contain the oocysts.  The parasite breaks free of the shell of the oocyst in the victims gut and begins its life’s cycle. The only place a coccidia can live is in the gut.  It usually takes 2-4 weeks for the life cycle to be complete to the point of that victim shedding its own oocysts in its feces.  Now you know why you don’t have trouble with coccidiosis in kids until they are 2.5 to 4 weeks old.

Immunity: As long as the coccidia doesn’t kill its host, the host will gradually become partially immune to the parasite.  So as the animal becomes older, it builds up its immunity until coccidia are usually no longer a problem.  Coccidiostats (rumensin, lascalocid, sulfas, etc) help the victim keep down the number of coccidia in its body so that the victim can live long enough to develop that immunity.  The coccidiostats don’t totally eliminate the coccidia from the body, just reduce their numbers and the severity of any clinical problems.  Coccidiostats like amprolium (Corid) tie up thiamin and make it unavailable to the host, thereby causing polio in some over-treated animals.  Adult goats have coccidia in their gut.  They have learned to live with the bug and have developed some immunity.  If the adult animal becomes debilitated from some disease or condition (starvation) it may break with coccidiosis.  Otherwise, the adult animal does not have clinical coccidiosis.

If, by chance (like being raised on wire or slats like little pigs), an animal makes it to adulthood without experiencing coccidia, they will die rapidly from exposure to the bug.  They have developed no immunity to the disease and are very susceptible. Most (all) producers want to have their animals exposed to coccidia at an early age so they can develop immunity and be protected later in life.


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