Understanding Coccidiosis

By Peter J. Brown, Aka The Chicken Doctor,

First State Veterinary supply

 

 

            Coccidiosis is one of the least understood of all Avian Diseases. The key to controlling Coccidiosis is to be on a control program that will keep the disease under control, yet allow sufficient natural immunity to develop. Because the oocysts that cause Coccidiosis are present everywhere, it is virtually impossible to be free of this disease.

            Coccidiosis is caused by a Protozoan which is a single celled animal. When the Protozoa multiply in the birds intestine, infection takes place causing intestinal damage. Cells that line the intestine that are used for digestion and conversion of feed into Amino Acids and other nutrients are destroyed by the ever multiplying Coccidia. Some species of Coccidia can and do cause severe damage to the Intestinal lining and therefore make it difficult for the bird to absorb the necessary nutrients to nourish it’s body.

            There are at least nine species of Coccidia known to infect Chickens. Every animal is affected by some species of Coccidia. All species of Coccidia are host specific. This means that Coccidia that are capable of infecting Chickens will not infect Turkeys and vice versa. Five of the nine species of Coccidia that infect Chickens can be very aggressive and cause permanent Intestinal damage if not properly controlled. Each of these species resides in a particular section of the Intestines. Emeria acervulina resides in the upper part of the small intestine and is usually found in birds that are eight weeks of age and older. Emeria necatrix usually found in the middle areas of the small intestine and is usually responsible for the intestinal bleeding often seen with Coccidiosis and it usually attacks young birds. Emeria tenella resides in the Cecal tonsil or blind pouches of the Intestine and usually causes what is call Cecal bloody Coccidiosis and is usually found in birds that are between five  to eight weeks of age. Emeria brunetti does its damage in the lower small intestine and the Cloaca or rectum of the bird. Emeria maxima causes Intestinal damage in the middle to lower portions of the small Intestine.

            Coccidiosis is spread by contaminated feed and droppings from infected birds. The infectious oocysts that cause Coccidiosis can be carried by man, litter, contaminated equipment and free flying birds. The main source of infection is the chickens itself. Birds that are infected with Coccidiosis will pass great number of infectious oocysts in their droppings. Even a bird that has recovered from a Coccidiosis outbreak will remain infectious as they are never really free of the disease. The oocysts are capable under the right conditions of surviving in the soil for periods of one year or longer. The oocysts that cause Coccidiosis thrive in wet surrounding and are easier to control if litter and or the ground is in a drier condition. It takes approximately four to seven days for an infection to take place in the intestines. It takes constant re-exposure to the infectious oocysts in order for immunity to Coccidiosis to develop. Immunity is not permanent nor is it guaranteed for the life of the bird. Immunity depends on constant re-exposure to the infectious oocysts, if re-exposure is not accomplished then immunity will be lost. There is no cross immunity among the different species of Coccidia. This means that in order for birds to develop immunity to all nine species of Coccidia they would have to be exposed to sufficient numbers of oocysts from all nine species. They would then have to be constantly re-exposed to all nine species of Cocci in order for immunity to be maintained. The severity of a Cocci outbreak will depend upon the numbers of oocysts that are ingested by the birds and their overall health and conditioning.

            Controlling Coccidiosis and still allowing immunity to build is accomplished in the following way. Use Amprol/Corid powder in the birds drinking water at the rate of one teaspoon per gallon of water for seven days and 1/8 teaspoon of 3-Nitro-W as well. Then skip twenty one days and then begin treating with Sulfadimethoxione at the rate of one ounce per two gallons of drinking water for five days. Then skip twenty one days again and start the treatment all over again beginning with the Amprol/Corid and the 3-Nitro-W powder. Continue this program until all birds are five to six month sold or until the hens begin laying eggs and then discontinue the program and treat on an as needed basis. It is important to start the Amprol/Corid powder first and then use the Sulfadimethoxine as some species of Cocci cause intestinal bleeding and the use of Sulfa drugs first, will contribute to the bleeding before it makes the situation better. It is also advisable to add ¼ teaspoon of VITAMIN E to the water as research shows that VITAMIN E can help shorten the course of a Coccidiosis outbreak. When starting baby chicks it is important to start this program no later than ten days of age as this disease will kill baby chicks very quickly. Newly developed technology has produced a new Coccidiosis vaccine that is both effective, safe and, affordable. It is really simple to use just mix the vaccine according to the directions that are provided with the vaccine and spray the vaccine on the birds feed that you are feeding for the day. Its that simple. If vaccination was done properly the birds will show mild symptoms of Cocci but should not be overwhelmed by the vaccine and immunity will build from there. No medication should be necessary for the life of the birds.

            Some of the symptoms that you may observe during an outbreak of Coccidiosis are as follows: Ruffled feathers, droopy or sleepy eyed appearance, birds may drop one of both wings, birds may become lethargic and reluctant to move even when prodded. Some birds may show an uncoordinated gate or appear to stagger of walk as though they are trying to step over something when there is nothing in front of them. Some birds may have a chilled appearance as well. There may or may not be blood in the droppings depending upon the species of Cocci that is affecting the birds. Weight loss as well as loss of appetite and mortality may also be observed.

            Just a word of caution when using Sulfa drugs. Never use Sulfa drugs for longer than the suggested period of time. Never use two Sulfa drugs at the same time. Always use the proper dose for the drug being used. Always allow three weeks between the use of different Sulfa drugs, never use them back to back. The overuse of Sulfa drugs can and will if not properly used cause permanent and irreversible KIDNEY DAMAGE and RENAL SHUTDOWN (kidney failure). Use Sulfa drugs with confidence but with a sense of caution. It will be of value to use some 3-Nitro-W in with the Corid/Amprol powder when treating for Cocci. There is a synergistic effect when the two are used together. Synergistic just means that the ability of the Corid/Amprol powder to fight Coccidiosis will improved if the two are used together.

 

This article is reproduced with permission from The Chicken Doctor 

 

 

 

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