According to the Oklahoma State University Extension Service, coccidia is a parasite that is specific to the host.
Cattle have their own coccidia specific to their species, which is different than what may be found in sheep or goats.
Like staphylococcus in humans, it is common in the livestock’s environment, but dangerous when the animal ingested an abundance of the parasite.
Coccidiosis is transmitted from animal to animal by the fecal–oral route, according to OSU Extension. Infected fecal material can contaminate feed, water or soil; therefore, cattle can contract the disease by eating and drinking from contaminated sources, or by licking itself or other animals.
The severity of disease depends on several factors, including the number of eggs eaten, the species of coccidia present, and the age and condition of the animal. The symptoms usually include diarrhea varying in severity from watery manure to containing blood. Dehydration, weight loss, depression, loss of appetite and occasionally death may also occur. Even less severe infection, where there are no signs of the disease, may affect the growth and health of an animal. Additionally, nervous coccidiosis can develop in some calves with acute intestinal coccidiosis.
Dehydration is also another setback that the disease can cause.
Per NDSU Extension Service, symptoms in young (3 to 6 weeks of age), suckling calves, clinical signs of coccidiosis may develop following stressful events such as weather changes, or if the calves are in unsanitary conditions.
The disease can be costly, including vet bills, medication, hindrance in livestock growth and productivity, and in some cases livestock loss.
“It can be a costly disease for producers,” Benton County (Ark.) Extension Agent Johnny Gunsaulis said.
Consulting a trusted veterinarian is always key when treating a sick animal.
Coccidiostats are the drugs given to treat coccidia, however it doesn’t kill the coccidia, it just slows it down, per Michigan State University Extension.
“If there’s any positive take on it, there are still several options for controlling it that don’t fall under the VFD since they aren’t considered medically important to humans,” Gunsaulis said.
Medicated feed is an efficient way to help prevent coccidiosis, by constantly slowing the coccidia. Calves are more at risk to coccidiosis, so treating them with a Coccidiostat additionally to medicated feed is also an option.
Other preventable measures include sanitary conditions.
Coccidia is passed through feces, it is important to keep the feed and water areas clean.
It is also important to not let the livestock eat off the ground, to prevent the ingesting of coccidia from contaminated feces.
For pasture-raised livestock, medicated water is an alternative to feed.
Mixing the Coccidiostats into the drinking water or stock tanks can help prevent coccidiosis.
When a sick animal is noticed, quarantine is the best preventive measure to protect the rest of the herd.
Coccidostats are lethal to horses, so ranches and farms with both livestock need to be careful when storing and feeding.
Always consulting a trusted veterinarian prior to treatment is the best way to help prevent and treat diseases in livestock based on the herd’s specific needs.