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Understanding Coccidiosis

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

Coccidiosis is a disease caused by single-celled organisms called protozoa.

They're microscopic and coccidia eggs or oocysts live in large numbers in the animal's environment. They're resilient and can survive for long periods. They love moisture and warmth and hate sunlight.

Animal's ingest them by grazing or simply exploring their environment - think of a calf licking a gate. The ingested oocysts then arrive in the intestine.

Older animals' immune systems will detect the ingested coccidia and prevent them from causing any performance or welfare issues. Multiplication and development will be suppressed greatly.

However, younger animals will be naive to the parasite, having never encountered it before. In these animals the coccidia penetrate cells in the lining of the intestine and begin to multiply inside.

The tissue in the lining of the intestine is one of the most important in the animal's body. It absorbs ingested nutrients (food and water) from the digestive system for use in metabolic processes.

Coccidia multiply at staggering rates - millions and millions in the space of days - and soon cause these cells to burst open. When this happens, new oocysts are released and more cells are invaded. After a period, millions of oocysts will be released into the dung and cause further contamination of the animal's environment.

As our animal's intestine becomes compromised, they lose the ability to digest food and water.

Performance dips and the animal dehydrates rapidly.

One of the principle symptoms of coccidiosis is bloody dung. This blood is typically made up of remnants of bursted intestinal cells. However, most infected animals don't exhibit this symptom and simply encounter a drop in thrive.

Generally, the animals that show symptoms are the weakest or most stressed in a group.

Call our Animal Health Specialists on 01425 474455 for further advice

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