Coccidiosis in Sheep and Goats

Initially, sheep and goats were thought to carry the same species of coccidia, but emerging research suggests two distinct sets of species affecting each. Coccidia is a protozoan parasite that infects the small and large intestines of many animals. It should be suspected in any goat kids older than 2 weeks suffering from diarrhea. Goats are particularly susceptible and coccidiosis can lead to significant problems in many herds. The typical diarrhea is pasty to watery and can quickly lead to dehydration. Unlike calves, blood-tinged diarrhea and straining to defecate are uncommon. Often, clinical signs can develop 2 to 3 weeks post-weaning. Mortality is high in weaker kids suffering from heavy infestations. Sheep do not appear to be as susceptible to coccidiosis as goats, but stressful events such as shipping may lead to clinical signs and serious infections can lead to death.

Control is focused on reducing environmental contamination. Ensure that animals are not eliminating in feeders or water sources. Maintain clean and dry bedding. There is no reliable disinfectant, but drying and sunlight are the most effective at destroying oocysts (coccidian eggs). Young animals are the most susceptible and immunity develops with age, but older immune-compromised animals may suffer infection as well. It may be necessary to mass treat susceptible groups of animals in the face of an outbreak.

If your herd is experiencing diarrhea, please bring in a fecal sample to have it analyzed for parasites. A physical exam might be warranted to guide treatment and identify any secondary infections.

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