Treatment And Control of Coccidia in Sheep

Helen A. Swartz

State Sheep, Goat and Livestock Specialist


Coccidia are tiny internal parasites (Eimeria spp) that live in the cells of the sheep's intestines. The tiny oocysts containing the infective stages are passed in the feces and are picked up by other sheep through contaminated feed and water. The number of parasites that invade the intestinal tract determine the severity of disease that results in the condition called coccidiosis.


Coccidia are considered internal parasites but are resistant and non-responsive to dewormers used for internal parasites in sheep. Practically all sheep tolerate a low level of coccidia with no adverse effects. A high level of coccidia, especially in lambs, damages the intestinal lining resulting in improper or reduced absorption of nutrients and weight loss. This damage can also result in bloody and dark diarrhea, causing dehydration and death. In some cases, very little diarrhea, if any, has been observed. Stress induced from changes in weather or sudden changes in feeding, such as from pasture to dry lot, will often result in a severe coccidia outbreak.


Coccidiosis is generally seen in intensified sheep management operations. Sheep can be managed profitably in an intensive operation by practicing proper sanitation and sufficient space allotment for ewes and lambs. If coccidia are suspect in your flock, collect some fresh fecal samples and take them to your veterinarian for analysis or call for advice.


Outbreaks of coccidiosis are usually treated with sulfa drugs and amprolium. These drugs must be prescribed by your veterinarian. The treatment for the outbreak of the disease should not be confused with the drugs used for control. Bovatec (lasalocid ) has been approved for sheep as a control of coccidia infestation. However, the veterinarian can prescribe drugs that are not approved for use in sheep by the Food and Drug Administration, such as monensin (Rumensin) and decoquinate (Deccox) if you have a good client/patient relationship. These drugs are used as a preventative, not a treatment.
Bovatec and monensin have been used to slightly improve feed efficiency in lambs.

(Check labels for withdrawal information)
Drug								Dosage									Precaution
Generic			Trade Name

Sulfa Drugs (dimidine, gua-		1 1/2 gr./lb of body wt.		Treat 3-5 days
nidine, methazine, quinoxa-											Provide plenty of
line																	drinking water

Amprolium			(Corid)		20-30 mg/lb of body				Long term use
									wt.									causes thiamine
																		(B1 ) deficiency
Drug								Dosage									Precaution
Generic			Trade Name
Lasalocid			(Bovatec)		30 gms/ton of feed
(approved for

Monensin			(Rumensin)		10-15 gins/ton of feed				Fairly toxic
(not approved)

Decoquinate		(Deccox)		1.0 mg/lb of body wt. per
(not approved) .					day


Sheep and especially lambs may be infected with coccidia that may be confused
with internal parasites. Contact your local veterinarian if your sheep have 
symptoms of coccidia that may cause sudden death.

Lincoln University at Jefferson City, University of Missouri, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Rufus Jones, 1890 Administrator, Distributed in furtherance of Food and Agricultural Act, 1977 PL 95-113 Section 1444 and 1445, as amended by PL 97-98 December 22, 1981.
Publications are distributed without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, or handicap.
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