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Coccidiosis in Sheep

Summary written by David Bartley BSc PhD
Taken from Moredun Foundation Newsheet Volume 5 No 5 (Feb 2010)

  • Coccidiosis is most often seen in young lambs of about 4-7 weeks of age that have been exposed to a high level of oocyst challenge.
  • The disease occurs most often in intensive husbandry systems and where there are high stocking densities and/or lambs under stress.
  • Since a range of pathogens can cause scouring in young lambs it is vital to seek veterinary advice and to identify the causative agent before embarking on the appropriate treatment regime.
  • Coccidia (Eimeria) are highly host specific so infection can only originate from other lambs and sheep.Although there are a number of different sheep eimerians, disease is usually caused by eitherEimeria ovinoidalis and/or Eimeria crandallis: the two most pathogenic (capable of producing disease) species.
  • Concurrent Nematodirus infection can exacerbate the severity of coccidiosis and lambs may need to be dosed with a suitable anthelmintic as well as an anti-coccidial drug.
  • Diagnosis of coccidiosis should be based on farm history, clinical signs, faecal analysis and, where animals have died, from a post-mortem examination of the gut.
  • Due to the presence of non-pathogenic species of coccidian, total oocysts counts may not always provide a good indicator of the cause of scouring.
  • Coccidiosis should be treated as a flock problem.
  • Oral and “in feed” treatments are available for the control and prevention of coccidiosis. Oral anticoccidial treatment should be administered as soon as a positive diagnosis has been confirmed.
  • Prophylactic treatment of ewes with an anticoccidial around lambing time can help to reduce contamination of buildings/pastures with oocysts. Prophylactic treatment may delay the acquisition of natural immunity of young livestock and producers need to be aware that when treatments are stopped disease may occur.
  • Lambs with severe scouring due to coccidiosis may also require supportive rehydration.
  • Prevention of infection is dependent on good hygiene and husbandry. Keep pens and feeding troughs clean and dry.
  • An adequate intake of colostrum will assist the lamb in coping with coccidial infection.
  • Wherever possible avoid grazing young and older lambs on the same pasture and in particular on fields which have carried ewes and lambs within the previous 2-3 weeks

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Printed from on 27/06/17 02:32:59 PM

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