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Heath Issues

Coccidiosis ~ What is it and how did I treat it?

by Christopher Rowley, Goose Meadow Farm

Coccidiosis is caused by small parasites that multiply inside the host cells, mainly in the intestinal tract. There are three types, Eimeria, Isospora, and Cryptosporidia.   Disease is common and widespread in suckling piglets but is seen occasionally in growing and finishing pigs.  Coccidiosis should be suspected if there is a diarrhea problem in sucking pigs from 7-21 days of age that does not respond particularly well to antibiotics. 

Here’s my story:

Last winter I noticed 3 piglets in a litter with bright yellow scours. These piglets were 2 weeks old and since I had only encountered diarrhea in younger piglets I began treatment for what I assumed was E.coli scours.  I treated the piglets for 3 days and saw no improvement.  I decided to take one of the piglets to my veterinarian.  As soon as the vet saw the diarrhea she says this is Coccidia related.  She took a fecal sample and sure enough she was correct.  Coccidia was indeed the culprit.  The veterinarian prescribed  Albon 5% Oral Suspension (Sulfadimethoxine).  This is the same medication that is given to dogs and cats, and it’s a tasty banana custard flavor.  The dosage that my veterinarian recommended to me is 1cc per 4 pounds twice daily to piglets with diarrhea and once daily for piglets in the same litter with no signs of diarrhea.   Treatment was recommended for 5 to 7 days.  After  1 or 2 doses I no longer had to restrain the piglets for their medicine.   They loved the flavor and would suck it from the syringe like it was a wonderful treat.   All signs of diarrhea were gone after 2 to 3 days of treatment with the Albon. 

We have recently learned of a product for prevention of Coccidia.  The name of this product is Baycox Piglet (5% Toltrazuril) marketed by Bayer Animal Health New Zealand.  The preventative dose is a single oral treatment of 1cc Baycox (5% Toltrazuril) per piglet at 3 to 6 days of age.  While Baycox Piglet is not available in the USA we have found a 5% Toltrazuril that is available in this country.  It is not labeled for piglets but labeled for horses for the treatment of Coccidia.  The concentration of this 5% Toltrazuril available in the USA  is exactly the same as the Baycox Piglet marketed in New Zealand. We have purchased this product and have begun to use it in our piglets at 3 to 6 days of age to hopefully  prevent any further Coccidia issues.   So far so good.

Pig Anemia

   The piglet is born with limited supplies of iron and if it had been born in the wild would depend on supplementation to its diet from iron bearing soils. Indoors the pig has no access to iron other than to the sows' milk (which is deficient) until it starts to eat creep feed. It is necessary therefore to give extra iron either by mouth or by injection. The pig is born with a normal level of hemoglobin in the blood of 12-13g/100ml and this rapidly drops down to 6-7g by 10 to 14 days of age. A shortage of iron results in lowered levels of hemoglobin in the red cells, (anemia), a lowered capacity for the carriage of oxygen around the body and an increased susceptibility to disease.

Clinical signs

   Piglets appear pale from 7 days onwards, sometimes but not always with a slight check in growth. The color of the skin may take on a slight yellow or jaundiced appearance. In severe cases breathing is rapid particularly with exercise and there may be a predisposition to scour.


   This is based on the clinical signs, the lack of any supplemental iron and the hemoglobin level in the blood. If this is less than 8g/100ml the piglet is becoming anemic.


  • Inject piglets with 200mg of iron dextran.

Management control and prevention

  • The easiest method is to give the piglet an injection of 150- 200mg of iron dextran in either a 1 or 2ml dose.
  • Iron is best given from 3 to 5 days of age and not at birth. A 2ml dose at birth causes considerable trauma to the muscles.
  • The sites of injection are either into the muscles of the hind leg or into the neck. Use a 21 gauge (5/8 inch) needle.
  • Iron can also be given orally but this method is time consuming and the pig must be treated on 2 or 3 occasions at 7, 10 and 15 days of age.
  • Oral pastes available ad lib have been used but the uptake within any litter is variable and a few piglets remain anemic.
( "Anemia - Iron Deficiency")