Coccidiosis in Goats
Written by Administrator-GL   
Monday, 02 July 2007

Another Potentially Fatal Gastro-Intestinal Parasite .. Coccidiosis

Coccidia is not just a killer of goat Kids but Adult goats can get it as well.
Scours (What we call Diarrhea in goats) weight loss and stunted growth in kids ages 3 weeks and older may be the first signs of coccidiosis. Coccidia, the protozoal parasite that causes coccidiosis, is breed-specific, so if you fear your chickens will pass it to your goats - not to worry.
The parasite causing Coccidiosis is passed through fecal-to-oral contact, meaning as your goat kids mouth everything on the ground, if the adult goats are shedding coccidia Ooocsyts (eggs) , the kids will pick them up and the cycle begins.

Clinical coccidiosis is most prevalent under conditions of poor nutrition, poor sanitation(or overcrowding), or after the stressful situations such as weaning, shipping, sudden changes of feed, or severe weather.
Coccidiosis is extremely contagious and will quickly spread through the goat herd. Usually the first thing you will see is a weak goat, a kid down on it's side with a weak cry or scouring goat or goats- most typically with poops that resemble chocolate pudding (In severe cases may be very watery) or may have mucus or blood in it (Bloody scours is blackish in color or may have actual blood streaks in it), may or may not have bubbles in it when it is first passed and most often has a terrible scant odor- Once you have smelled it you will never forget it. The goat may or may not have a fever and may or may not yet look dehydrated.

Immediate treatment Must be administered because permanent damage is done to the walls of the small intestinal (which is where nutrition is absorbed into the goat's body). Clinical Coccidiosis attacks the intestinal lining causing inflammation in the small intestine and much of the time severe pain. Weight loss can be severe and sometimes chronic (cannot be reversed). If the goat survives, it will more than likely always be a a bit weaker and never really fully healthy. Intestinal bleeding is typical and in severe cases, death can occur from blood loss.

Typical causes of death from coccidiosis are dehydration, electrolytic imbalance and acidosis. Serious clinical Coccidia infections can leave severe intestinal scarring and stunted growth due to poor digestion and nutritional mal-absorption of any nutrition the goat ingests.

Gastro-Intestinal worms are more of a problem with goats browsing on pasture, coccidia are more of a problem in goats (most likely recently kidded does, sick, young and older goats) that are in confinement or under intensive grazing systems.

Treating Coccidiosis!

Deworming will not treat coccidiosis! Let me restate this
NOTE 12/13/2011: Speaking with my vet.. today on treating Coccidiosis.. the reported damage done by using Corid is minimal and infrequent.. if you are  treating coccidiosis on a close schedule, it is better to use Corid as opposed to Albon, DiMethox or Sulmet as the sterioids (Albon, DiMethox and Sulmet)  will have an adverse effect on the liver. If you are only treating  every 6 months or so the steriod use is fine but depending on the severity  may not be as effective in the long run.


Coccidiostats of Choice

Corid (amprolium)

Read More Here about Corid

Sulmet Drinking Water solution

Given right from the bottle without diluting

DiMethox Drinking Water Solution

Given right from the bottle without diluting


Treating coccidiosis is always oral and always with a product called a coccidiostat, usually called a "sulfa drug" by goat owners. There are a few out there from which to choose: Sulmet (Sulfamethazine Sodium 12.5%), Di-Methox (Sulfadimethoxine) 12.5% Drinking Water Solution by AgriLabs, or Albon Liquid (Sulfadimethoxine 12.5%)(Which has recently been discontinued due to marketing - not that anything was wrong with the product itself)

Treating coccidiosis is a 5 day process
1st day: 6 tablespoons (3 fl oz) for each 100 lb body weight
providing approximately 112.5 mg/lb (247.5 mg/kg) body weight.
2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th days: 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 fl oz) for each 100 lb body weight,
providing approximately 56.25 mg/lb (123.75 mg/kg)body weight.
NOTE:1 TBSP (tablespoon) equals 15ccs or 15mls, so when you draw this up into a syringe you can figure this easily
Even though this is a "drinking water solution"- adding it to the water as opposed to using this directly from the bottle undiluted- you cannot gauge how much each animal is getting- do Please - use this directly from the bottle undiluted in the amounts stated above (adjust as needed per your goats approximate weight) so you are sure of the amount your goat has ingested.

Corid Liquid
5-DAY TREATMENT: Add 3 fl oz CORID 9.6% Oral Solution to 1 pt of water and, with a dose syringe, give 1 fl oz of this drench solution for each 100 lb (45 kg) body weight. This will provide a dose of approximately 10 mg amprolium/kg (2.2 lb) body weight. Give daily for 5 days. Use on a herd basis only; when one or more calves show signs of coccidiosis, it is likely that the rest of the group has been exposed, and all animals in the group should be treated.

Sulmet Drinking Water Solution 12.5% Dosage And Administration DOSAGE: CATTLE, CALVES AND SWINE
1st day: 6 tablespoons (3 fl oz) for each 100 lb body weight providing approximately 112.5 mg/lb (247.5 mg/kg) body weight.
2nd, 3rd and 4th days: 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 fl oz) for each 100 lb body weight, providing approximately 56.25 mg/lb (123.75 mg/kg) body weight.

Dimethox Drinking water solution, I use the same dosing as for same as Sulmet Drinking Water Solution

In addition to treating the coccidia, you will also need to treat the gut for inflammation and try to stop the scouring without the use of anti-diarrheal medications.
To stop inflammation in the gut:
Over-the-counter people medication, Tagamet 200 can be given to your goats:
For kids the dosage is one half of a Tagamet 200 tablet daily for 5 consecutive days.
For Adult goats, use one Tagamet 200 tablet daily.
Pills and tablets can be crushed in 2 spoons and a very small amount of water added from a dripping faucet to wet the dry powder and then give this on the spoon orally to the goat. OR an Unbroken pill can be hidden in a rolled up piece of bread and allow the goat to eat it- Make sure the pill doesn't get spitted out. Also, a small amount of Pepto-Bismol given orally may also be used to coat the lining of the stomach reducing gut irritation.
To stop watery scouring:
By far the best (although a vet prescription is required) is called TMP-SDZ
Generic Name

Brand Names
Tribrissen (veterinary-approved trimethoprim/sulfadiazine) also known as TMP-SDZ, SDZ-TMP, Co-trimazine

Septra, Bactrim (human-approved trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole)
200mg/40mg per 5 mL - dosage is 2mls or 2ccs given orally for a 100lb goat- overdosing can cause constipation!

One more note:
You may hear that adult goats cannot get coccidiosis, that this is Only a kid disease. NOT TRUE!
I learned the hard way years ago which is why I decided to research and write this article for you.
The following photos are of my goat "Boopie" who lost her life due to coccidia after kidding. I did have a fecal done, BUT Important!a normal fecal exam does not allow enough time for the coccidia oocysts (eggs) to float to the top - an additional 5-15 minutes is required for this to show in a fecal exam- so if you are dealing with a non goat vet- let them know this.

The color of the inner eyelid membrane is light due to blood loss internally due to the coccidia in this goat's system. The "bottlejaw" edema has traveled to the eye area in this photo- this goat is suffering from anemia due to coccidiosis.

This photo shows the bottlejaw of this goat who has severe anemia due to coccidiosis- improperly diagnosed by the vet who did the fecal exam. This goat died a week after these photos were taken- Lesson: Adult goats CAN get coccidiosis- it is Not just a neonatal disorder-a second fecal exam was taken at the time of death showing a very heavy cocci load.

Read More on worms and anemia:
BottleJaw in the Goat
Deworming Information for Goats

SULMET Product Information
DiMethox Product Information
So.. How exactly do coccidia harm my goats? continue ....

How Coccidia do Harm to the Goat

and why it is Potentially Fatal

The basic life cycle of the coccidia parasite


Life Cycle of Coccidia

  • The oocysts of coccidia will contain about eight parasites.   They will shed themselves in the feces of an infected animal.   These oocysts can survive up to one year.
  • If a goat  ingests an oocyst, the parasites will be released and invade the gut of the new host.
  • The parasites will then divide through asexual reproduction into a hundred or more daughter cells.
  • The daughter cells will eventually break out of the gut wall to invade a new area and repeat the process.
    • In 10-14 weeks the daughter cells can multiply over a millionfold.
  • During this stage, parts of the gut wall will have parasites attached that have developed into male and female sex cells.
  • The female sex cells are fertilized and secrete oocysts into the gut wall and around themselves.
  • The oocysts will then shed in the feces and thus will complete the lifecycle.
  • Coccidia is caused by the protozoa Eimeria
    • There are four types of pathogenic species:
      • Eimeria Crandalis
        • Infects ileum
        • Impairs absorptive capacity, causing scours
      • Eimeria Ovinodalis
        • Infects ileum, cecum and colon
        • Impairs absorptive capacity, causing scours
        • Damages the gut's ability to regenerate causing more severe, prolonged diseases
      • Eimeria Ahsata
      • E Ovinoidali

So.. What does this all mean?

 Simply put.. the numbers of coccidia in the small and large intestine, do damage to the walls of the intestine making  nutritional  absorption almost nil- there by basically starving the goat internally. The oocysts also kill off the mucosal lining and the intestine can become necrotic, dying off and leaving the goat with the inability to  absorb nutrients form the food they eat..  Goats who have had severe cases of coccidiosis, and survive may never be fully able to grow, add weight  and thrive like a goat who has not had intestinal damage. All livestock have coccidia, it is when something stressful happens to the animal that the parasite  increases in horrendous numbers  and does the damage  it does.


 Numerous species of Eimeria  are found in goats in North America. The Eimeria  spp  are host-specific and are not transmitted from sheep to goats. E arloingi , E christenseni , and E ovinoidalis are highly pathogenic in kids.

Clinical signs include

  1. diarrhea with or without mucus or blood 
  2. dehydration
  3. emaciation
  4. weakness
  5. anorexia
  6. and death.

Some goats are actually constipated and die acutely without diarrhea. Usually, stages and lesions are confined to the small intestine, which may appear congested, hemorrhagic, or ulcerated, and have scattered pale, yellow to white macroscopic plaques in the mucosa.

Histologically, villous epithelium is sloughed, and inflammatory cells are seen in the lamina propria and submucosa. In addition, there have been several reports of hepatobiliary coccidiosis with liver failure in dairy goats.

Diagnosis of intestinal coccidiosis is based on finding oocysts of the pathogenic species in diarrheal feces, usually at tens of thousands to millions per gram of feces. It is not unusual to find oocyst counts as high as 70,000 in kids without overt disease, but weight gain may be affected.

Angora and dairy goats, raised under different management practices, may have similar patterns of exposure of kids. Just after parturition, nursery pens and surrounding areas may be heavily contaminated with oocysts from does.

Resistance to infection is decreased just after shipping, changing rations, introducing new animals, or mixing young with older animals. Coccidiostats can be administered to a herd immediately after diagnosis or as a preventive in predictable situations such as those mentioned above. Merck Veterinary Manual


 Coccidia Lifecycle Phases

EXTERNAL PHASE (grass, feed or water contaminated with feces)
After sporulation, the oocyst is able to withstand commercial cleansers and disinfectants
and can survive and remain in the environment for years.

Step 1
The sporulated oocyst is a mature egg containing 4 sporocysts, each with 2 sporozoites.

SUBCLINICAL PHASE (small intestine)
Subclinical coccidial infections damage the villi of the small intestine and can reduce nutrient absorption.

Step 2
After the sporulated oocyst is ingested and exposed to carbon dioxide and digestive enzymes in the hostís digestive tract, it splits open (or excysts) and releases its 8 sporozoites.

Step 3
Each highly motile sporozoite swims or glides to the small intestine.

Step 4

3 to 7 days after ingestion, sporozoites enter the small intestine and reproduce asexually through a budding process called schizogony (completed Day 5 through Day 10). Each sporozoite can produce up to 120,000 first-generation merozoites, which are released when the host cell bursts.

Step 5
These merozoites undergo another asexual division in the lower small intestine and upper large intestine. Each first-generation merozoite can produce 30 second-generation merozoites.

CLINICAL PHASE (large intestine)
Clinical signs of coccidiosis include bloody scours, blood-tinged feces, dehydration, anemia and general loss of body condition.

Step 6
Second-generation merozoites penetrate the large intestine, differentiating themselves as either male (microgametes) or female (macrogametes) and begin the sexual stage of the life cycle.

Step 7
A microgamete fertilizes a macrogamete to produce a zygote. The zygote forms a protective wall and becomes an oocyst, which causes the host cells to rupture.

EXTERNAL PHASE (feces, contaminated grass, feed or water)
After sporulation, the oocyst is able to withstand commercial cleansers and disinfectants and can survive and remain in the environment for years.

Step 8
The oocyst is passed, along with tissue and fluids from the ruptured cells, in the feces. At this stage the oocyst is unsporulated (immature) and is not infective.

Step 9 In the presence of oxygen, the oocyst undergoes a process called sporulation. It takes 2 to 4 days for an oocyst to become a sporulated oocyst, capable of infecting cattle. A single oocyst can produce up to 23 million oocysts during the next life cycle.

Coccidia Reproduction

A single sporulated oocyst has the potential to turn into 23 million oocysts after just 21 days inside the host animal. During asexual division, one sporulated oocyst divides into 8 sporozoites, each of which can divide into 120,000 first-generation merozoites (a total of up to 960,000).


Coccidia Facts in Cattle (same applies to Goats)

  • Coccidia are obligate intracellular parasites and must return to the host to continue their life cycle.
  • The coccidia life cycle is a continuous process, with reinfection occurring daily.
  • Cattle routinely ingest thousands of oocysts each day through feces, contaminated feed and water, or by preening their own coat or licking that of another animal.
  • As few as 50 thousand oocysts can cause severe disease in the calf.
  • Cattle can develop immunity to coccidia after extended subclinical infection.
  • The most effective way to manage coccidial infections is a combination of preventive and treatment measures.
  • Single cell oocysts are passed in the feces of cattle, are resistant to disinfectants, and can remain in the environment (particularly moist, shady areas) for long periods of time (years) and maintain their infectivity.

Last Updated ( Friday, 28 July 2017 )