cocci? If you have goats, are a member of a goat forum, or goat chat group you have heard of it probably often and with dread.
Remember the last time a cry for help came through your goat group asking what to do, or what to treat their goats with.
All the drugs and doses where probably discussed at length.
But what do you really know about Coccidia? What you don't know can lead to heartache or a herd of unthrifty, constantly sick goats. Did you know that not all drugs work anymore? Did you know that the Coccidiostats (drugs used to treat Coccidiosis) don't actually kill coccidia?
Coccidiosis is caused by a group of parasites known as Eimeria, more commonly known as Coccidia. Don't be fooled, not all coccidia are the same. There are 10-12 different species of coccidia in goats. There are coccidia that effect sheep, dogs, cats, rabbits, and even humans. The most troublesome are: E. ninakohlyakimovae; E. arlongi; E. christenseni,[i] and E. caprina.
Though MOST forms of coccidia are species specific, meaning that the coccidia that effects rabbits will not be passed to your dogs. Most? Yes, there is always that exception to every rule isn't there? We'll cover that little tidbit later.
Coccidiosis is a disease caused by a class of parasite known as
coccidia. Coccidia only causes disease when their numbers become so high that pathological damage is done. Finding coccidia in a goats intestines doesn't mean a goat is suffering from Coccidiosis.[ii] Coccidia is found everywhere, it's in our environment. Not all coccidia cause the acute or chronic Coccidiosis, nor do all coccidia effect the same areas of the intestine. Each one reproduces in a different way.[iii]
What happens with cases of Coccidiosis is that the parasite damages the intestinal cells and causes inflammation. By damaging the intestinal lining, it affects how nutrients/fluids are
used by your goat.
Acute Coccidiosis: Signs of acute Coccidiosis can vary between animals, but can include severe and sudden diarrhea, sometimes with mucus and blood. The diarrhea is light colored and can smell very foul. Sometimes even pasty, watery yellow green to light brown. Extreme cases can include blackish, tarry signs in the diarrhea and can cause painful straining. Dehydration is a big concern with acute Coccidiosis. Temperatures will usually be slightly higher than normal. Acute Coccidiosis can be fatal, especially to very young goats whose immunity system is not fully developed. There can be painful straining due to the inflammation in the intestine. Cases of acute Coccidiosis is not as common in adult goats. Why? Because adult goats usually have already been exposed to coccidia in their environment and have immune systems capable of handling it. Immunity to Coccidiosis is usually developed by the second month after exposure.[iv] BUT.....oh yes, a but again......with 12 species of coccidia, a goat can have a natural immunity to one coccidia, but not another. Hate those buts don't you?
Clinical/Chronic Coccidiosis: This is where the unthrifty goat comes in to play. Stress, overcrowding, and poor management practices, including wet and hot environmental factors can overwhelm a goats' immunity system causing clinical signs of Coccidiosis. Signs are usually show up as a decreased appetite, diarrhea, or seem to take longer to recover from a bout of illness. Signs can also be weakness and slower growth rates. Chronic signs can be seen, such as: pot bellied appearance, very thin animals. Chronic cases of Coccidiosis may never fully recover from the disease.[v]
Not all diarrhea in young goats is Coccidiosis, E. Coli can also cause all the same signs of illness. Other causes of diarrhea in young goats can be linked to rotavirus, coronavirus, and cryptosporidium. You need to exclude infections such as
nematodes, viral and bacterial infections. Pneumonia signs are similar to those of Coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is confirmed by clinical signs, such as diarrhea, and a fecal examination. This disease is confirmed when the count reveals thousands to millions of oocytes per a gram of a fecal sample.[vi]
FAMACHA system. FAMACHA is a diagnostic tool some people use to know when to worm their goats. This uses a color coded card to assist in finding the color (Deep pink to white) in the mucous membranes of the eyes of goats to determine the level of
anemia. This technique was developed in South Africa. Using a
scale of 1 to 5, 5 being severe anemia, can be very useful. The advantages of this tool is low cost and it's quick. However, using this card to diagnose worm load is not a absolute, it works only for H. contortus. It is recommended that those using the FAMACHA system be trained by a veterinarian or other professional.[vii] Why? Not understanding how to correctly move the lid is like checking the goats hydration levels on their gums, by pulling the flesh (lid or mouth) can easily cause a negative reaction when anemia or dehydration is not a problem.
Toxoplasma gondii. Remember our comment earlier about most coccidia are species specific? Toxoplasma gondii is one that will travel from one species to the next. Toxoplasma gondii causes coccidiosis in cats. This parasite can also cause abortion in goats.[viii] This disease seems to effect young cats more than adult cats.
Hence the common warning with cats 18 months old or younger having contact with your goats. Toxoplasma gondii has been
found to cause abortions in humans and sheep.
Coccidiostats are the drugs used to treat and/or prevent coccidiosis. What most don't understand is that Coccidiostats do not kill the coccidia directly, they only slow their growth and help reduce the risk of damage. [ix],[x],[xi] These drugs are called 'off label', meaning they are NOT approved for use in goats. They require a licensed veterinarian to provide them.
There are five anti-coccidial drugs used for treatment or prevention, these are: lasalocid (Bovatec), monensin (Rumensin), decoquinate (Deccox),
amprolium (Corid), and sulfaquioxaline (Albon).[xii] Any pharmaceuticals used have an effect on the rumen. Some to more severe degrees then others. These drugs are split into two groups: Treatment and Prevention.[xiii]
Treatment: Corid and Albon are used to treat coccidiosis.
Corid has been shown to cause thiamine (B1) deficiency which can kill your goats, so Corid should not be used without B1 injections or treatment of some kind.
Prevention: Rumensin, Deccox, and Bovatec are recommended as feed additives. Prevention with these lower the shedding of coccidia into the environment, and has a three week lag time prior to the decrease. Preventative programs should be planned prior to kidding to assist the most vulnerable - the kids.
Many know our stance already on pharmaceuticals, we don't like them, we avoid them at all cost. However, if the life of our goat - we will use them. Only after doing a fecal, and if needed, a blood panel. We want to know exactly what it is and use the right pharmaceuticals if needed.
When it comes to drugs and treating our livestock, here are some
surprising statistics: current estimates suggest that 90%-100% of small ruminant farms have benzimidazole resistant nematodes (worms); current estimates in the US that 20%-40% of small ruminant farms have resistance problems with levamisole and related compounds; Ivermectin, sound familiar? The estimates show resistance to Ivermectin around 90%-100% of small
ruminant farms in the United States.[xiv] This is just another argument for using caution with worming or treating our herds.
By repeatedly treating our herds for what we 'think' they have will not only lead to resistant parasites, but can prevent our livestock from developing natural immunity to what is in their natural environment! What we don't know can do far more harm then what we think.
Prevention better than cure........
With the cost of treating Coccidiosis outbreaks, the damage that can be caused to our goats health, Coccidiosis' resistance to standard cleaners, and the fact that eradication is difficult once you have it, prevention would be key. Coccidiosis outbreaks are high in warm and wet environments. The sporulated occyst can survive for a year or longer if in wet and dark locations.[xv]
Some researchers believe that Coccidiosis is somewhat of a man made disease - meaning poor management practices are leading to outbreaks of Coccidiosis. Higher incidents of Coccidiosis happen to goats limited to barns and small paddocks. So what can you do to stop it's spread or at least limit its effect on your herd?
- Separate sick goats from the rest of your herd.
- Don't feed your animals on the ground.
- Offer fresh grass hay.
- Clean the barn regularly. Infected fecal is how most parasites are passed.
- Let the sun and hot, dry weather help kill infected ground.
- Let your goat's natural immunity take care of some, treating only when there is clinical signs of Coccidiosis.
- Fecal first, then wormer. Know what you are treating.
- Quarantine all new animals for testing.
- Change water daily, or more often if needed. Place it high enough to prevent fecal contamination.
- During extremely wet seasons, feed dry hay more - wet grazing less.
- Eliminate the stress to your herd as much as possible. Wean kids over a period of time, no dramatic changes in diet.
- Provide grazing/foraging. Animals that graze and forage have less incidents of Coccidiosis then goats kept in a barn or small paddock.
- Don't overcrowd your herd! Though 20 sq ft per goat in your barn is adequate, 8-10 goats per acre is better.
Even with all your best efforts, sometimes things happen. Try
preventing an outbreak of Coccidiosis with Regano. Regano?
Promising studies in the use of oil of Oregano (from Origanum vulgare car. hirtum). The product called Regano, it is a natural product including diatomaceous earth and calcium carbonate. The study used Regano starting at 4 weeks of age (adult animals were also included in this study), Regano was added to their ration - 2 g per 100 lbs.
Coccidia, Trichostrongyles (nematode group - H. Contortus), and tapeworms were compared at the beginning, the end, and throughout the study. Though there were no changes with the tapeworms in either sheep and goats, what they found is still very promising!
Goats had reductions in H. Contortus as much as 100% effective
for goats. Coccidia numbers dropped at a rate 51% percent. Of all the results, controlling H. contortus was by far considered
significant - why? it is the deadliest parasite to small ruminants and shows the most resistance to many types of wormers.[xvi] Other studies have shown promise as well.
Understanding our environment, using good management practices to prevent disease, as well as avoiding the constant chemical use that is being promoted as the 'only way', can
help us keep our herds healthy and happy. Know your animals, spend time with them - learn they behaviors and personalities. That will go a long way in understanding their health and their needs.
Finally, the costs of prevention is far more affordable than the cost of 'maintenance' drugs, or high vet bills due to animals constantly being sick. Why would you want to treat a continuing problem that is being caused by the treatment, when you can prevent the problem from occurring in the first place?
What seems better to you?
[i] Leite-Browning, maria Lenira, D.V.M., "Coccidiosis in Goats and Prevention"; Extension Animal Scientist, Alabama A&M University.
[ii] Scarfe, David A. Ph.D., D.V.M., "Management and Control of Goat Coccidia", Tuskegee University.
[iii] Scarfe, David A. Ph.D., D.V.M., "Management and Control of Goat Coccidia", Tuskegee University.
[iv] "Handbook for the Control of Internal Parasites of Sheep and Goats"; 2012.
[v] "Handbook for the Control of Internal Parasites of Sheep and Goats"; 2012.
[vi] Leite-Browning, maria Lenira, D.V.M., "Coccidiosis in Goats and Prevention"; Extension Animal Scientist, Alabama A&M University.
[vii] Mobley, Ray, "Control of Parasites in Goats", Extension Veterinarian; Cooperative Extension Program; College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture; Florida A&M
[viii] Schoenian, Susan. "Coccidiosis - Deadly scourge of young lams and kids"; Extension Sheep & Goat Specialist at the University of Maryland's Western Maryland Research & Education Center.
[ix]"Handbook for the Control of Internal Parasites of Sheep and Goats"; 2012.
[x] Constable, Peter D., BVSc (Hons), MS, Ph.D.; DACVIM.
[xi] Scarfe, David A. Ph.D., D.V.M., "Management and Control of Goat Coccidia", Tuskegee University.
[xii] Tritschler, Joseph; "Internal Parasite Control in Grazing Ruminants"; Virginia State University.
[xiii] Tritschler, Joseph; "Internal Parasite Control in Graing Ruminants"; Virginia State University.
[xiv] Tritschler, Joseph; "Internal Parasite Control in Graing Ruminants"; Virginia State University.
[xv] Scarfe, David A. Ph.D., D.V.M., "Management and Control of Goat Coccidia", Tuskegee University.
[xvi] Schivera, Diane. MOFGA's Organic Livestock Specialist.