Coccidiosis is a disease that results from overcrowding, dirty and/or wet pens, and unclean water. Coccidiosis is highly contagious and spreads through a herd rapidly. The first symptom is usually -- but not always -- diarrhea. Along with diarrhea always comes dehydration and sometimes fever. If treatment isn't begun immediately, permanent damage will be done to the intestinal lining and the goat won't be able to absorb nutrients from its food. Weight loss is substantial and too often chronic (cannot be cured); if it lives, the goat will always be unthrifty. In advanced cases of Coccidiosis, diarrhea can be watery, and may contain mucous and blood. Bloody diarrhea is blackish in color.
The parasite causing Coccidiosis is passed through fecal-to-oral contact. While adult goats can contract Coccidiosis (particularly does that are stressed from having recently kidded), young kids' immature immune systems make them susceptible to this disease. Kid goats pick up and "mouth" everything in their surroundings. Some of those objects are goat "pills" (feces) that are coccidia-infected; the parasites quickly take up residence in the kids' intestines.
The protozoan organism causing Coccidiosis is the intestinal parasite of the genus Eimeria and is species specific -- which means that Coccidiosis in one species of animal cannot infect animals of another species. The long-held belief by some livestock breeders that chickens can infect goats with Coccidiosis is not true.
Fecal testing is necessary to diagnose Coccidiosis. Coccidia oocysts are easily identified in fecal samples placed under a microscope. Learn to do fecal counts on your goats to monitor the health of your herd. My article explaining an easy and inexpensive fecal-testing procedure appears on the Articles page of my website www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. Diarrhea in kids does not always mean Coccidiosis. Fecal testing can identify the cause. Diarrhea is a symptom of an illness and not an illness in and of itself. See my article on Diarrhea for additional information.
Dewormers neither prevent or cure Coccidiosis. Over-the-counter products for treating Coccidiosis include Albon, its generic equivalent Sulfadimethoxine 12.5% (Di-Methox 12.5% Solution, 40% Albon and its generic equivalent. I do not recommend using CoRid because its active ingredient, amprollium, inhibits Vitamin B 1 (thiamine) production that is vital to rumen function and some strains of coccidia have become resistant to it, but you may have to use it, as Sulfadimethoxine 12.5% is being taken off the over-the-counter market and will be available only through veterinary prescription. Other sulfa-based drugs are likely to become unavailable over the counter too. If you have to use CoRid, you must also give Vitamin B 1 (thiamine) injections at the same time.
I prefer using the DiMethox 12.5% solution; it is a generic of Albon and less expensive. Although Di-Methox 12.5% comes in both liquid and powder, the liquid is easier to dose properly. To treat a herd that is already infected with coccidia, administer three to five cc's of undiluted liquid Di-Methox 12.5% orally to each kid daily for five consecutive days. For adults, dose at eight to ten cc's in the same manner. Di-Methox 12.5% can also be added to drinking water; follow package directions. Limit access to the water source being medicated. Automatic waterers must be turned off to maintain correct dosage strength. Orally drench each goat individually to insure accurate delivery, even if the herd's water supply is also being medicated. The goat who needs the product the most is likely to be on the bottom of the pecking order and will get the least if you try to mass dose via water only. Preventative dosage is usually one-half the curative dose; read product labels.
Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch in Arkansas likes to use 40% Albon injectable given orally. She doses as follows: 1.56 cc per 25 pounds bodyweight for Day 1, then .78 cc per 25 pounds bodyweight for Days 2 through 5. Give it orally. Mix it with molasses or fruit juice as it is nasty tasting in concentrated form, making goats likely to spit it out.
You may have to use other sulfa-based drugs, like Sulmet, if the above-mentioned products aren't available. Follow package directions.
The prescription antibiotic of choice is Primor. Administer one tablet orally in the morning and the second tablet by mouth in the evening of the first day -- and then one tablet orally each day thereafter -- for a total of five consecutive days. Primor comes in body-weight dosages, and the tablets are scored so that they can be split in half for accurate dosing. Endosorb, a prescription tablet that calms the gut, dissolves readily in electrolytes like Bounce Back or Resorb or in water for easy oral dosing. If Endorsorb is not available, over-the-counter Tagamet 200 can be given to goats; kid dosage is is one-half of a Tagamet 200 tablet daily for five consecutive days. Use one Tagamet 200 tablet daily for adult goats. Pepto-Bismol given orally may also be used to reduce to coat the lining of the stomach and reduce gut irritation, but it is no substitute for the other treatments listed in this article.
For controlling life-threatening watery diarrhea, the liquid antibiotic Sulfamethoxazole & Trimethoprim Oral Suspension 200mg/40mg per 5 mL (prescription) is excellent. Given orally, the dosage is 2 cc per 100 pounds bodyweight. Dose accurately, as overdosing will constipate the goat. Over-the-counter Biosol (neomycin sulphate) may be used if prescription products are not available. Diarrhea of the consistency of pudding doesn't worry me much unless it lasts for multiple days and/or has blood in it.
If the prescription antibiotics Sulfamethoxazole & Trimethoprim Oral Suspention or Primor are not stopping watery diarrhea, consider changing to Baytril 100. Baytril 100 is available both in injectable and tablet form, but the oral treatment seems to work faster in the gut of the goat. Injectable Baytril 100 is easier to use than oral tablets when medicating big strong goats. NOTE: Some jurisdictions prohibit use of Baytril or Baytril 100 in any form (injectable or tablets) in food-production animals; if your vet prescribes it, you may be able to use it.
Banamine is an excellent prescription medication for both calming the gut and bringing down fever. Normal goat body temperature ranges from 101.5 degrees F. to 103.5 degrees F. Banamine should be administered intramuscularly (IM) or sub-cutaneously (SQ) at a rate of 1 cc per 100 pounds of body weight. A newborn kid would receive .1 - .2 cc (one-tenth to two-tenths of a cc) of Banamine. Banamine should be used sparingly as it has the potential to cause stomach ulcers.
A severely dehydrated goat should receive cattle electrolytes (Bounce Back, ReSorb, etc) , both in an oral drench and in its water supply. Additionally, Lactated Ringers Solution (an inexpensive vet prescription that you should never be without) should be given under the skin (SQ) at both shoulders warmed to appropriate temperature -- dose 30 cc per shoulder SQ for kids. A 60 cc syringe with an 18-gauge needle should be used for this procedure. Keeping the goat hydrated with electrolytes and Lactated Ringers Solution (LRS) is critical to the animal's survival. Gatorade or Pedialyte may be used in place of cattle electrolytes in emergencies.
Rehydrating an adult goat that won't drink on its own requires stomach tubing in order to get enough liquid into its body. No amount of oral drenching syringe-by-syringe will rehydrate an adult goat. See my article on Stomach Tubing Goats on www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
Green leaves are the best natural product to feed to a sick goat, regardless of the illness. Green leaves will be the first food that it will eat, followed by hay. Don't offer sacked/processed grains to a sick goat; they are too difficult to digest. A goat will begin eating sacked or processed grain feeds only when recovery is well underway.
NOTE: This article provides information on a variety of medications for use with Coccidiosis. Do not try to use them all at one time. Faced with Coccidiosis in a goat, I would start treatment with Sulfamethoxazole & Trimethoprim Oral Suspension in an animal with very watery diarrhea, then switch to Di-Methox 12.5% liquid oral solution when the stool begins to achieve a "pudding-like" consistency. On run-of-the-mill cases of Coccidiosis, my choice would be Di-Methox 12.5% liquid oral solution. If fever exists, a Banamine injection would be given. If fever is not present, either Endorsorb, Tagamet 200, or Pepto-Bismol would be used. If Di-Methox 12.5% liquid oral solution didn't work, then Primor tablets(prescription) would be dosed. The prescription antibiotic Baytril 100 would be used as a last resort, when no other treatment has worked. Lactated Ringers Solution would be given SQ at the shoulders to a kid who is not drinking on his own. In all cases, electrolytes would be used to treat dehydration in both kids and adults. Green leaves, if available, should be offered to all sick goats old enough to eat solid food. You will need to determine what combinations of medications work with your herd.
At the completion of the five-day antibiotic treatment, repopulate the goat's gut with live bacteria by dosing with an oral probiotic. Do not give probiotics concurrent with antibiotics. Give probiotics only after you complete the consecutive day antibiotic treatment.
When kids begin eating solid food at around two to three weeks of age, you should offer a goat feed containing a coccidiostat to prevent a coccidiosis outbreak. The general timeframe that kids are at risk for Coccidiosis runs from about two weeks of age (when they begin to pick at solid food) and through five or six months of age (when the immune system is somewhat developed). Weaning is a particularly stressful time as kids no longer have antibody protection from their dam's milk; kids are suddenly on their own immune-system wise. Feeding a coccidiostat-laced feed will not overcome over-crowding and filthy living conditions. Once goats are infected, cocidiostat-treated feed will not cure Coccidiosis. Some types of coccidiostats are toxic to other farm animals like horses; investigate before choosing a coccidiostat.
Prevent Coccidiosis by keeping pens and bedding clean, water fresh, goats uncrowded, and areas dry. Wet and dirty conditions are incubators of Coccidiosis for both kids and adults. Rotating pastures is helpful in reducing exposure to coccidia. Clean, dry, uninfected, and uncrowded pens and pastures are necessary to avoid outbreaks of Coccidiosis.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, 7/10/15
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