Coccidiosis in poultry, learn everything you didn’t know about this disease

Poultry Coccidiosis is a disease caused by protozoa, which frequently affect various domestic birds and other specimens, these to be infected by the infection show certain signs such as weakness, alterations in the digestive system and other symptoms of Coccidiosis in poultry. In the following article we will know more about Coccidiosis in poultry, its main causes, which are the possible and most effective treatments, we will also learn how to prevent this disease, with the objective of guaranteeing a better quality of life for our birds.


Coccidiosis is a disease produced by protozoa, this can affect domestic birds as well as other birds, since these species are considered the most vulnerable, this usually generates in the bird’s organism some signs that show its contagion, enteritis and bloody diarrhea are the most frequent.

This alteration produces that the intestinal tract is affected, there are some exceptions such as the case of renal coccidiosis in geese, which is generated in a more complex way.

Coccidiosis in poultry can cause even more severe damage in the oganism of the species, for this reason clinically the following effects are observed:

  • The feces are bloody
  • Feathers are ruffled
  • They are anemic
  • Reduction in head size is observed
  • They present somnolence
  • The area around the cloaca is stained with blood
  • Infection is usually by the oral route or by fecal route

Effects on the bird

Coccidiosis in poultry can affect any species of bird, in the case of a duck, it can generate anatomical dehydration and thus begins to produce progressive damage to the body, reaching a high degree of anemia in the body and certain areas such as the viscera.

After the ingestion of sporulated oocysts, which are infective, the sporozoites are released and enter into asexual and sexual cycles of development, producing the appearance of thousands of new oocysts in the intestines, thus generating alterations.

Oocysts are distributed directly in the feces. They quickly sporulate and become infective for chickens, causing damage to the organism.

Depending on the location of the lesions in the intestines, coccidiosis in poultry is divided as follows:

  • In cecal, induced by E. tenella
  • In the small intestine induced by E. acervulina, E. maxima, E. necatrix, E. mivati, E. mitis, E. praecox, and E. nagani.
  • In cecal coccidiosis, there tends to be a kind of typhlitis mark with hemorrhages seen throughout the intestinal wall.

The intestinal lesions caused by coccidia are the consequence of damage to the epithelial cells of the mucosal lining, since this is the place where the parasites develop and multiply.

Oocysts are present in many everyday spaces such as: bedding, sheds and they are distributed in various accessories and objects of nature, which include clothing, shoes, dust, insects. Anatomo-pathologically, there is dehydration together with a high degree of anemia in the body and viscera.

Because coccidiosis in poultry is the product of a series of processes, in the last stage there is damage to other organs, since the contents of the cecum are thickened, mixed with fibrous exudate and acquires a very complex appearance and may have a sticky similarity.

Certain factors such as wet litter and heat in the poultry houses favor sporulation and therefore are the origin of the various outbreaks of coccidiosis in poultry on a frequent basis.

As for the small intestine, depending on the species of Eimeria, damage can be observed as hemorrhages of varying intensity in different parts along the intestine.

In many cases these alterations are generated through hemorrhages that are petechial and can be observed through the intestinal wall.

In many cases coccidiosis in poultry may show that the contents are mixed with fresh or clotted blood, and the mucosal lining is mottled with multiple petechial or extensive hemorrhages, which may be evident to the naked eye. Occasionally, a reaction of the intestinal lymphoid tissue is reflected.

Histologically, it has been determined that the presence of Eimeria can be detected within the intestinal epithelial cells. This is possible by means of diagnosis that is generally performed through certain very effective methods such as:

  • The results of the complex evaluation of the clinical picture
  • The macroscopic lesions
  • Impression preparations
  • Histological studies and flotation
  • Coccidiosis can be differentiated from NE, UE and histomonosis (typhlohepatitis)

Applied methods

Coccidiosis in poultry requires specific treatment, where sulfonamides are widely used:

  • Sulfadimethoxine
  • Sulfaquinoxaline
  • Sulfamethazine

It is important to mention that these should not be used in laying hens. According to several studies it has been proven that the addition of vitamins A and K promotes recovery.

Microscopic examination of a natural preparation of the intestinal contents or the superficial mucous layer is very important since it reveals a significant number of oocysts in a microscopic field.

As for prevention, it is important to establish the use of coccidiostats with the feed in a rotation system, as this is the most widespread system. Immunization against coccidiosis in poultry is established by means of applied methods such as commercial vaccines, which are frequently used in broiler breeder flocks.

For this reason, there are certain cases that reflect that if chickens are exposed to the natural effect of a moderate number of oocysts in their environment, they can develop immunity to the respective parasitic species, due to certain studies carried out on certain birds with the objective of establishing analyses.

What is Coccidiosis in poultry?

Coccidiosis in poultry is a disease, which is produced by protozoan parasites that are characterized by having a microscopic size, these are called coccidia, and usually belong to the genus Eimeri and Phylum Apicomplexa. (see article: Broiler Chicken).

These parasites are characterized by affecting many of the animals raised commercially and used for food purposes, within the animals that can often be affected are poultry such as:

  • turkeys
  • The ducks
  • Chickens
  • Different domestic mammals
  • Sheep
  • Cows
  • Pigs

General aspects

Poultry in general require special care and attention, that is why over the years, has generated a high increase and demand in poultry farms, since by establishing good care, and a specific selection of birds, has achieved an excellent development of the same at the level of marketing.

For this reason, poultry meat has become through the years a fundamental part of the food diet of society, considered as a necessary source for human consumption, for this reason many poultry breeders invest in medicines created to combat the severe damage that Coccidiosis in poultry produces to the animals they raise.

It has been proven that there are several species that cause the disease, which have caused injuries and economic losses to farms through the contagion that is reflected in the birds.

For this reason, Coccidiosis in poultry should be considered as a complex disease, which makes it difficult to attribute the losses and negative effects caused by this disease to a single species of coccidia in particular.

Some with the purpose of preventing Coccidiosis in birds, usually administer continuously in the feed of the Polyetheres Ionophores, despite the diversity of anticoccidial agents that have been marketed, in many cases are the main alternative. (see article: Goldfinch bird).

Other opinions state that broiler breeding has certain advantages in conversion rates and weight gains for those who carry out these businesses and maintain a special care in the birds, avoiding through treatments the spread of Coccidiosis in birds.

Although the advantages provided by the various drugs focused on the control of Coccidiosis in poultry are remarkable, these are not excluded in the resistance that these parasites develop to them.

This continually demands a drug that contains a higher dose, which provides a positive effect and is economically accessible, which is why many choose to supply natural products, which serve to treat the disease and in general can control or permanently eliminate it, before Coccidiosis in poultry causes major effects.


The symptoms that different species present with Coccidiosis in poultry are the following alterations in the organism:

  • Birds become pale
  • They become weak
  • They tend to curl up
  • They tend to have lower food and water consumption
  • They have diarrhea
  • May become dehydrated
  • Suffer a noticeable loss of normal weight
  • In the case of laying hens, they experience a drop in lay

Coccidiosis in poultry can be classified as cecal Coccidiosis, which can generate certain alterations in the bird and for this reason causes it to produce bloody droppings, the bird can also present anemia, and many times these factors together generate the death of the species.

In the case of intestinal coccidiosis, it is not acute and is usually defined as being of a more chronic nature. This produces less mortality than the cecal form, according to several studies that prove it.

Subclinical Coccidiosis

Due to the incorporation of coccidiostats in most of the poultry feed, less severe effects of this disease have been achieved. Although many times it is common to use this term, since it is very frequently referred to subclinical coccidiosis as a consequence of its silent evolution, which generates certain alterations.

There are several opinions where it is said that subclinical coccidiosis can be associated with leg problems in poultry or that it is also related to certain deficiencies of Se. or some toxic pictures by Cu and Co and it can also be included to other factors as they are:

  • An increase of Mg
  • Cu or Zn in the diet
  • Participation of E.acervulin


In order to establish a proper diagnosis in the bird, it is necessary to go to the doctor or specialist and he will tell which is the most appropriate treatment to treat the disease, for this reason it is advisable to take the bird to the veterinarian in order to rule out any alteration in time.

There are different species that affect birds, and more frequently chickens, these cause a series of alterations in the animal’s organism, among the most common species we find:

  • E. acervulina
  • E. brunetti
  • E. maxima
  • E. mitis
  • E. necatrix
  • E. preacox
  • E. tenella

It is important to mention that each of these species develops in a particular location within the digestive tract and can generate diverse processes. It is common to establish an approximate of six species among which are:

  • E. acervulina
  • E. tenella
  • E. brunetti
  • E. mitis
  • E. preacox

These species can occur in poultry litters up to the first six weeks, each of these species can be easily identified because they usually produce severe lesions, this as a direct result of their own characteristics since they have a pathogenicity and a range that goes from moderate to severe.

In the case of E. preacox and the so-called E. mitis do not usually cause chick death or in some cases generate pathognomonic lesions, although in some cases they can be considered benign.


There are different treatments created by veterinaries with the objective of treating the disease or in some cases to take the necessary measures to control the risks and alterations generated by Coccidiosis in poultry, these have been achieved through constant renovations.

For this reason, due to the good capacity or the significant resistance to their etiological agents, that these have demonstrated against the procedures that were applied against them, some alternatives are:

  • Therapeutic measures
  • Use of coccidiostats
  • Preventive treatment and coccidicides
  • Curative treatment
  • Immunological measures
  • Vaccinations
  • Pre-immune treatment


In general, there is a wide variety of drugs that have the function of being used under a preventive or curative purpose, each of them fulfills a specific function and seek the welfare of the birds.

It is very important to pay attention to the period in which these drugs are finalized, because it is at this stage where the total absence or minimum presence of residues in the tissues can be observed, for this reason and due to the current demands of the export market on this level and a greater safety and guarantee for the consumer.

Classification of anticoccidials

Anticoccidials depending on their mode of action on Coccidia are usually divided into: coccidiostats, these are those that inhibit or significantly stop the development of the parasites, and in the case of coccidicides, are those that destroy them due to their high function.

Coccidiostats work in a complex way, since they do not totally eliminate the occists, they simply allow the development of immunity in the bird, and are generally used in replacements which are dedicated to reproduction or laying hens.

In the case of coccidicides, by destroying the parasites, they inhibit the development of immunity. For this reason, they are currently used only in broilers, due to their short life cycle and as a result of their development.

Some experts consider that anticoccidial compounds do not always act on all Coccidial species and for this reason they can induce resistance after one use of the treatments. For this reason, research has continued to generate new compounds that guarantee greater safety at the time of their use.

The various programs created for the control of coccidiosis in chicken production have generally focused on the use of anticoccidial additives.

Different market research data have indicated that 98% of chickens worldwide receive an anticoccidian as a standard ingredient in their feed, due to the main existing alternatives.

There are 3 main classes of compounds, which have been developed as anticoccidials:


  • Polyether ionophores
  • Synthetic chemicals
  • Steroidal sapogenins


In such a case it is advisable that the bird is taken to a specialist, for this reason it is of vital importance to go to a veterinarian urgently if any alteration is observed in the normal level of the bird, since the specialist is the one who can indicate the diagnosis and initiate the treatment in an opportune way.


Coccidiosis can be a fatal disease in poultry, since it generates strong alterations in the animal’s organism that end up causing death, due to the loss of electrolytes, since it is the main cause of dehydration.

Coccidiosis can only be treated in the early stages of the disease, therefore it is of vital importance to recognize if there is the presence of coccidiosis in the bird. (see article: Reproduction of chickens).

In the case that this disease is treated in time, an anticoccidial, usually decoquinate, is used, which inhibits the development of the protozoa and allows a good prognosis of the disease, and thanks to this, a better development in the bird can be guaranteed.

Due to the high contagion rate of Coccidiosis in poultry, the main function of the treatment must be based on isolating the sick bird from the other birds, otherwise, the disease can spread quickly and lethally, causing many of the birds in the place to be rapidly affected.

The veterinarian is the specialist in charge of indicating when the bird obtains a good development and has overcome the coccidiosis, since he carries out different studies and knows when it is apt to remain in groups, therefore it is important that the specialist determines the moment in which the bird is in contact with the other birds again.


In general, Coccidiosis in poultry can be prevented, this is achieved through various care and treatments, in the case of farm poultry, immunization with commercial vaccines is performed, since poultry are the most susceptible because they are subjected to stress on a regular basis.

Other alternatives suggest the use of coccidiostats on a rotational basis and in such a way that they are administered together with the feed, this being the most common system due to their considerable positive effects.

One of the main factors in the adequate prevention of Coccidiosis in poultry is to periodically attend the veterinarian, since birds also need continuous follow-up to ensure their optimal health and welfare.

Natural medicines

Different specialists have used over time varieties of plants to improve the health of these birds, and ensure their good development, the use of plant extracts, essential oils and other substances from nature are currently the direct way to attack the disease.

For this reason, the use of phytobiotics guarantees a beneficial effect on the development of saprophytic microbiota at intestinal level. The proliferation of these beneficial microbial populations would reduce the impact of the lesions produced by coccidia, resulting in less severe symptoms in birds suffering from this disease.


Among the natural methods to treat the different disorders is the use of oil, which is the most used natural product in the control of Coccidiosis in poultry, since this has been directly from oregano and has established positive results in the control of the disorders in poultry.

Due to the fact that the main components of this natural resource are carvacrol and thymol, these generally constitute a considerable percentage of positive effects in the organism, the percentage established is 78 and 82% of the total oil, and exhibit a very significant antimicrobial, antiparasitic and antifungal activity for its adequate development.

Alternatives Used

Thanks to the combined use of phytobiotics, good results are obtained in the control of the disease, since they demonstrate their capacity as anticoccidial and act in a direct way with a bactericidal effect and for this reason they improve the intestinal integrity avoiding the secondary appearance of necrotic enteritis in the birds, which guarantees a good performance in the same.

The continuous use of these products in poultry farms should be carried out in the periods where there is a greater risk, combining the liquid version of natural products, which have a positive effect since the plants used, such as oregano, have healing properties.

Industrial Alternatives

The birds that present Coccidiosis of birds, usually must follow an adequate treatment, in such case is the veterinarian who indicates which is the treatment to follow, in many cases the most common medications are:

In general, there are different brands and several products in the market that are created to effectively treat the alterations presented in birds due to Coccidiosis in birds.

The most common and effective drugs that are generally used in these cases are the following:

The main factors that provoke the appearance of Codicciosis in birds are the following:

  • Stress in birds on a continuous basis
  • Lack of cleanliness and hygiene
  • Excessive humidity and heat
  • Poor feeding
  • Excess of birds in the cages
  • Lack of minerals and vitamins
  • Contact with birds that have not been in quarantine and are carriers of the disease

The specimens that tend to be more prone to acquire Codicciosis in birds are the following:

Birds in general can suffer from this disease, but those that are more exposed or present a higher risk are chickens in the first month of life and chickens in the adult stage that have scarce defenses.

What time of the year is the most prolific for Coccidiosis in poultry?

Several studies have shown that warm and humid temperatures are considered as the seasons where there is a higher risk of increase of this disease and many birds are affected.

Some experts believe that with temperatures at -0º centigrade the coccidia die. For this reason, it is recommended that the birds’ living quarters be as cool as possible and have as little humidity as possible.

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