Check out the information below for advice on coccidiosis in alpacas.
What is Coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is an infection of the intestinal tract, caused by microscopic parasites called Coccidia. Coccidia are naturally occurring in the environment, transmitted in faeces and can affect nearly any type of animal. Certain burden levels of coccidia are tolerable, but it can have severe and even fatal implications for animals; particularly Eimeria Macusaniensis (commonly called EMAC) which is a deadly group of 4 types of coccidia seen only in alpacas. Coccidiosis typically occurs in young, growing animals, but can be an issue in older animals that are immuno-compromised in some way or subject to stress.
How to identify Coccidiosis
Symptoms of coccidiosis include lethargy ,depression, loss of appetite, loss of weight and condition and diarrhoea. A Faecal Egg Count test, used to identify worms, may pick up coccidia oocysts or a specific test using sugar floatation method can be requested. However, it is important to note that the absence of an EMAC oocyst in a test does not equal absence of EMAC altogether because it can be sporadic in showing itself in testing, so several tests may be required. Below is an EMAC oocyst under the microscope.
Image source: www.alpacasofmontana.com
When should Coccidiosis be treated?
For treatment of regular coccidia (i.e. not EMAC), if there are less than 100 eggs per gram (epg), it does not need to be treated at that time, but monitor the situation and retest at regular intervals. If there are more than 100 epg, it can be treated. However, a zero tolerance approach should be taken when dealing with EMAC; if there is even a single coccidia egg present in a Faecal Egg Count test, treatment should be carried out immediately, as this type of coccidia can prove fatal.
How to treat Coccidisosis
Treatment is typically a 3-5 consecutive day course of Panacur or Vecoxan drench. For yearlings born the year before, they can be treated in October with Baycox / Tolracol / Cevazuril Oral Drench as a routine precaution. In either case, consult your vet to confirm if this is the appropriate medication for your herd and to discuss the dosage rate. Important: unless critical, do not treat pregnant alpacas, as the implications on the unborn cria are unknown.
How to prevent Coccidiossis
Regular, routine Faecal Egg Count testing can help to identify Coccidiosis early. Quarantine, where possible, new animals before introducing them to the rest of the herd. Poo pick the paddocks at least every other day, if not daily, and rotate pastures every 6-8 weeks.
Does Coccidiosis cause lasting damage?
Once the animal has been treated and recovered, the gut will continue to regenerate. This thankfully means that once the animal has overcome coccidiosis, it should not suffer any long term damage.
Disclaimer: Fostings Alpacas are not a veterinarian body. Always consult your vet when creating a health plan for your herd and before administering medication.
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