The advice hub Coccidiosis in Turkeys

Cause

Coccidiosis is caused by a single celled parasite which enters the cells of the bird’s gut to reproduce.  The parasite destroys the cells lining the gut wall leading to intestinal damage. The degree of damage will depend on how many coccidial eggs (oocysts) are eaten, which in turn will depend upon how contaminated the environment is with oocysts.

This damage reduces the gut's ability to absorb nutrients leading to weight loss and diarrhoea. The damaged gut allows harmful bacteria to reproduce causing a secondary bacterial diarrhoea and in severe cases this can cross into the blood causing blood poisoning.

Coccidiosis eggs (oocysts) have a very thick wall and as such can survive years in the environment.  The eggs can be resistant to many disinfectants so ensure that your disinfectant is licensed against coccidiosis.

Note: The coccidial species which infects chickens and turkeys are different.  They cannot infect each other but if you keep chickens and turkeys together, and if the conditions are right for cocci to take hold in your chickens, then conditions will be perfect for the cocci species that infects your turkeys.

Which birds are at risk?

Turkeys will pick up the eggs from faeces and bedding. As they become exposed to coccidiosis they will develop immunity against it (with or without clinical signs depending on the number of oocysts they consume). Birds that come into contact with their own droppings for the first time such as poults from two weeks to two months of age have no immunity and as such are vulnerable.

What to look out for

  • Dull, hunched birds with ruffled feathers
  • Sudden death
  • Diarrhoea (often watery and can contain mucus) - blood is rare compared to coccidiosis in chickens
  • Birds are often affected in varying degrees

Diagnosis

You should consult your vet if you suspect coccidiosis or you can use a Chicken Vet Faeces Sample Kit which will also detect presence and numbers of coccidial oocysts. Simply collect 10 fresh droppings, place into the pot provided, complete the submission form and post to Chicken Vet.  We will count the number of coccidial oocysts in the droppings to determine if your bird has coccidiosis at a disease causing level.

Treatment

This condition needs veterinary intervention as an anticoccidial agent will possibly be needed along with antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infections.

Your turkey will not be absorbing enough water and electrolytes from its gut, therefore Chicken Vet Poultry Multivitamins which contain a specific blend of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, with the addition of specialist essential oils and antioxidants would be an ideal support at this time.

After antibiotic treatment, the good bacteria in the gut will have been killed in addition to the bad. Biostop contains tannins to maintain and support birds with intestinal upset. The product would be ideal following the immediate use of antibiotics as sometimes when birds are taken off antibiotics, diarrhoea can return albeit in a milder form. BioStop should be given for 5 days at the dilution of 0.5ml per litre of water.

After Biostop we recommend giving your turkey Beryl’s Friendly Bacteria. This product contains over 200 species of friendly bacteria to help repopulate the gut.

Note: Do not give Beryl’s Friendly Bacteria until at least 48 hours after the use of antibiotics as their residues may kill the friendly bacteria.

Prevention

Good hygiene is essential. Regular cleaning and disinfection of the house is necessary especially if you’re breeding or rearing poults. Always ensure you use a detergent before your disinfectant and that you use an approved disinfectant against coccidiosis such as Interkokask.