Ever heard about Coccidiosis in goats?
Coccidiosis, a common parasitic infection in goats, is caused by various species of coccidia that affect the intestinal tract.
Particularly threatening to young goats, this disease can lead to diarrhea, dehydration, and weight loss, impacting overall herd health.
When left untreated, it is usually deadly—especially in young kids.
Let’s understand the symptoms, causes, treatment, and ways to prevent it from spreading in your herd.
What Is Coccidiosis in Goats?
You’ll often see it happen right after weaning the baby because it is a stressful experience.
Stress, or high cortisol, weakens the immune system, making it easier to contract infections or illnesses.
In more scientific terms, Coccidiosis is a common and potentially serious protozoan parasitic infection that affects the digestive tract of goats and other livestock.
The causative agents are various coccidia species, microscopic, single-celled organisms belonging to Eimeria.
Birds, most types of livestock, and even people can contract Coccidiosis.
However, transmission is mostly species-to-specific, meaning you will not “catch” it from your goats (what a relief, right?).
What Causes Coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is caused by coccidia, microscopic parasites that spread easily.
Coccidia are often in areas with high humidity and moisture.
Goats become infected by ingesting oocysts (the parasite in its infective stage) from contaminated feed, water, or bedding.
The oocysts can survive for extended periods in the environment, meaning it’s easy to pass through the herd and from farm to farm.
Overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions increase the likelihood of coccidia contamination.
Young goats (kids) are particularly susceptible to Coccidiosis because their immune systems are not fully developed.
Immunocompromised or stressed animals are also more vulnerable to coccidial infections.
Older goats that ingest coccidia usually have the immune systems to fight it off and not become affected.
With that said, adult goats can still suffer from Coccidiosis, but only when their immune systems are compromised.
Malnutrition or inadequate nutrition can weaken the immune system of goats, making them more susceptible to Coccidiosis.
Proper feeding and nutrition management are essential for maintaining overall health and infection resistance.
If this is something that interests you, here are a few helpful resources for goat nutrition and feeding:
- What to Feed Goats
- Feeding Alfalfa to Goats: The Pros and Cons
- Everything You Need to Know About Goat Food
- Thiamine for Goats: Important and Application
- The Best Goat Feeds: A Buying Guide
The Symptoms of Coccidiosis in Goats
Here are common symptoms associated with Coccidiosis in goats.
As you’ll soon notice, most of these symptoms are linked and will exacerbate the other symptoms.
Diarrhea is one of the hallmark signs of Coccidiosis. The feces may be loose, watery, and contain mucus or blood.
Diarrhea will lead to dehydration, which is why it’s such an issue. This has the potential to be deadly.
Prolonged diarrhea can result in dehydration.
Goats may appear lethargic and weak and may also exhibit reduced skin elasticity.
Dehydrated animals may also have sunken eyes and dry mucus membranes.
Weight Loss/No Appetite
Coccidiosis can cause a decrease in appetite, and goats may show reluctance to eat or graze.
The combined effects of reduced appetite, diarrhea, and dehydration create the perfect situation for significant weight loss.
Lethargy or Weakness
Infected goats may become lethargic and lack interest in normal activities.
They may isolate themselves from the herd and act differently.
Sometimes, you will find them lying down more often and refusing to get up if it’s serious.
The hair coat of affected goats may appear dull or rough, indicating a decline in overall health.
This is more noticeable in the spring, but you may be able to notice it in the winter if you’re more observant.
It takes a little practice, but experienced goat keepers will notice it.
Severe cases of Coccidiosis may lead to anemia, manifesting as pale mucous membranes (gums, inner eyelids).
We have a complete guide to goat anemia and how to help, which you may find helpful here.
In some cases, bloody diarrhea may be observed.
This is more common in severe infections, and you must act quickly to save your goats when they get to this point.
Note: Clinical signs may vary, and not all Coccidiosis goats will exhibit all these symptoms.
It’s best to consult your vet for a proper diagnosis whenever your goats show any of these symptoms or unusual behavior.
How to Treat Coccidiosis in Goats
Treating Coccidiosis in goats involves administering anti-coccidial medications to eliminate the protozoan parasites causing the infection.
Note: If Coccidiosis is left untreated (especially in kids), it is often fatal.
Here are the general steps for treating Coccidiosis in goats.
Isolate the Infected Goats ASAP
To prevent the spread of the infection, isolate affected goats from the rest of the herd during the treatment period.
There is a chance that your entire herd is already infected, but it’s always best practice to be proactive and quarantine the noticeably sick animals first.
It does NOT pass in utero or through milk, so do not separate kids from their mothers.
It is passed fecal-to-oral, so we emphasize clean barns, feeding stations, water troughs, pastures, and dry lots.
Administer Anti-Coccidial Medications
The primary treatment for Coccidiosis involves the use of anti-coccidial medications.
Examples include sulfadimethoxine, amprolium, toltrazuril, and others.
The choice of medication and dosage will depend on the infection’s severity and the veterinarian’s specific recommendations.
Follow the package’s instructions carefully, including dosage, duration of treatment, and any withdrawal periods for meat or milk consumption.
Most have a withdrawal time of nine days for milk and about two to three weeks for meat.
Extra-label means it is not tested and approved for goats, but producers use this to treat Coccidiosis in goats.
It is your decision, but I would not use the manure for food gardens the following month after administering these medications.
There aren’t many studies on this yet, but I feel it’s worth mentioning so you can at least weigh the pros and cons.
Many pharmaceuticals won’t fully degrade in the goat’s body or your compost pile.
Clean and Disinfect the Barn and Run Immediately
Before starting the cleaning process, move all goats to a separate, clean, and safe area to avoid any stress or potential exposure to cleaning agents.
Remove all bedding, such as straw or hay, from the barn. Dispose of the bedding properly.
Remove accumulated manure, paying attention to corners, crevices, and areas where manure may have built up.
You can compost manure infected with coccidia because the heat of the composting process will kill the coccidia.
It is safe to use this aged manure/compost in your garden.
Sweep the entire barn to remove loose debris, dust, and cobwebs.
Scrub all surfaces using a stiff brush or broom, including walls, floors, and support structures.
Pay attention to corners and areas that may be easily overlooked.
For me, this is underneath and behind my barn’s hay mangers, food bowls, and water buckets.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution and application. Ensure proper contact time for the disinfectant to be effective.
Allow the barn to dry thoroughly before reintroducing goats. Proper drying helps prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Ensure good ventilation during and after the cleaning process.
Adequate airflow helps speed up drying and prevents moisture buildup, which can contribute to bacterial growth.
Of course, good ventilation can prevent a slew of other potential issues, so this is a good preventative measure.
Adjust the Diet
Adjust the diet to encourage eating, providing high-quality forage and possibly supplementing with nutritional support.
Don’t give sick kids more grains because it is much more difficult for their fragile digestive systems to absorb.
Use Preventative Measures
Maintain clean and dry living conditions, proper nutrition, and effective parasite control.
Address any factors contributing to stress in the herd to reduce the risk of coccidiosis recurrence.
You may want to consider weaning your kids and selling them on separate days (preferably a few weeks apart) rather than doing this at once in one day to reduce stress.
Remember that kids receive antibody protection from their mothers via milk, so it’s a big shock to their little bodies when they are weaned.
You may want to include preventative coccidiostats in feed or water, proper sanitation practices, and regular monitoring for signs of reinfection.
Of course, it’s also ideal not to overcrowd your goats, and if you have to, clean their enclosure every day to prevent infections and other nasty outbreaks.
FAQs About Coccidiosis in Goats
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding coccidia in goats.
How Do You Treat Coccidiosis in Goats
You have to administer anti-coccidial medications to treat Coccidiosis in goats.
Corid (amprolium) and Albon (sulfadimethoxine) are the most popular treatment options, followed by sulfamethazine, sulfaguanidine, and tetracycline.
How Do You Know If Your Goat Has Coccidia?
Common signs of Coccidiosis in goats include:
- weight loss
- decreased appetite
- blood in the feces (in severe cases)
Fecal testing by a veterinarian is ideal for a definitive diagnosis.
Is Coccidiosis in Goats Contagious To Humans?
Coccidiosis in goats is caused by species-specific coccidia and is not directly transmissible to humans.
However, good hygiene practices, such as washing hands thoroughly after handling goats or their feces, are essential to prevent the potential spread of other zoonotic diseases.
Can Goats Recover from Coccidia?
With prompt and appropriate treatment, goats can recover from Coccidiosis.
The prognosis depends on factors such as the severity of the infection, the age and health of the goat, and how quickly treatment is administered.
Young goats are more susceptible and may require more vigilant management since they are more likely to die from Coccidiosis.
Will Cooccidia Go Away on Its Own?
Coccidia do not typically go away on their own.
The infection requires specific anti-coccidial medications to eliminate the parasites.
Prompt treatment is crucial to prevent the spread of the infection and reduce the impact on the affected goats.
Coccidiosis in Goats: Before You Go…
Coccidiosis poses a significant health threat to goats, particularly young and immunocompromised individuals.
Recognizing the clinical signs, consulting with a veterinarian for accurate diagnosis (when available- goat veterinarians are rare), and implementing timely treatment are crucial steps in managing this parasitic infection.
Good management practices, including proper sanitation, nutrition, and preventative measures, play key roles in minimizing the risk of Coccidiosis.
A proactive approach to herd health is essential for ensuring the well-being and productivity of your goat herd.