5 key points in understanding and managing coccidiosis

Posted on July 14, 2022 in Dairy Goat Performance
By Dr. Danielle Mzyk, Janesville Animal Medical Center associate veterinarian
Coccidiosis is caused by microscopic protozoan parasites called coccidian (Eimeria spp.). These parasites cause severe damage to the intestinal cells of goats, leading to diarrhea, clinical disease, and reduced growth and production. Here are five key points in understanding and managing coccidiosis.

  1. Coccidiosis is the most common cause of diarrhea in goats between three weeks and five months of age. This is especially true when goats are housed in confinement. Coccidiosis most commonly strikes a young goat shortly after weaning due to the stress associated with the weaning process. This stress decreases its immune system’s ability to combat the large number of oocysts in the gut, leading to clinical signs of disease, including diarrhea and dehydration. Coccidia in small numbers are normally present in adult goats and are generally not clinically significant.
  2. Environmental conditions – including specific temperature, moisture and oxygen levels – allow coccidia eggs to be passed in the feces and become infective in several days and can readily contaminate feed and water. Upon ingestion by other goats, these infective forms pass through the stomach and into the intestines. Then the sporocysts invade the intestinal cells and can quickly cause clinical disease.
  3. When a coccidiosis outbreak begins, good sanitation and isolation of sick animals is key to slow/prevent its spread through the herd. Coccidia eggs are resistant to many disinfectants and may survive more than a year in the environment. They can stay alive in a pasture as long as they are in a moist and dark environment, but will die when temperatures drop below freezing. Goats that survive coccidiosis develop a degree of immunity to future coccidiosis infections.
  4. The best preventive measure against coccidiosis is – first and foremost – good husbandry practices. Regular removal of manure and wasted feed, not feeding on the ground, designing feeders and water systems that minimize fecal contamination, providing a clean source of water, cleaning water tanks and feeders regularly, making sure that watering systems do not leak, and allowing sufficient sunlight to enter buildings are examples of ways to prevent spread. If goats are kept on solid floors during the winter, maintaining clean and dry bedding is important.
  5. Several treatment protocols are commonly used in goats. Whether your goal is to treat or prevent coccidiosis, always consult first with your veterinarian for specific directions about which product and dosage to use, the route of administration (in feed or by mouth), and meat and milk withdrawal times.

Category: Animal health
Dairy Goat Performance