Coccidiosis in lambs and kids
Dr. Seyedmehdi Mobini
Professor of Veterinary Science
Fort Valley State University
In addition to Gastrointestinal Nematodes (GIN) parasites, Coccidiosis can be a major problem in young and recently weaned lambs and kids. Coccidiosis is a protozoan infection (Eimeria), causing diarrhea in lambs and kids. Clinical disease is often seen when some form of stress such as overcrowding, dietary change, weather change, shipping, weaning or parturition occur on the farm in association with filth and moisture.
Lambs and kids ranging from 1 to 6 months of age are most susceptible, although younger animals may also become infected. Crowded conditions result in excessive manure and urine buildup, which is ideal for the buildup of oocysts causing diarrhea in young animals. Affected animals show scour, unthriftiness, weight loss/reduced weight gains, rough hair coat, and sometimes death. The scour in lambs and kids is usually not bloody, but the stool can contain blood or mucus and be very watery. Constant straining may be common in some lambs resulting in rectal prolapse.
Clinical Coccidiosis can easily be diagnosed by your veterinarian by examination of a fresh stool sample. Blood analysis may show both anemia and low protein level which may be mistaken by these signs shown by gastrointestinal worms due to barber-pole worm (Haemonchus contortus).
Treatment of affected animals with clinical signs include supportive care and administration of anticoccidial product in the feed or water, such as Amprolium (Corid®), Monensin (Rumensin®), Decoquinate (Deccox®), Lasalocid (Bovatec®) and Sulfa products (Albon) which prevent the spread of disease. All animals in the group should be treated during an outbreak. Many of the anticoccidial medications inhibit coccidia development and prevent the disease if given prophylactically. Producers should consult their veterinarian for proper dosage and instruction for using these medications. Coccidia can become resistant to anticoccidial medications with extended and inappropriate use. These medications should be used only during times of expected risk for the disease. A solid immunity develops subsequent to infection, however, if infection was severe, stunting usually continues.
Prevention and Control is the best course of action in susceptible lambs and kids. Animals that develop clinical signs may never recover from performance setback. Management efforts to control coccidiosis should be aimed at decreasing environmental moisture, sanitation and preventing overcrowding. In addition, facilities should be designed to prevent fecal contamination of feeding troughs and water sources. Supplements should not be fed on the ground. Exposure to sunlight and cleanliness are the two most effective means of killing the coccidia. Minimizing stress and proper nutrition are important husbandry and management tools to minimize clinical coocidiosis. Older animals serve as the source of infection for younger animals. Therefore, it is best to keep lambs and kids separate from older animals.