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Coccidiosis – Part Three

I originally thought I could throw this post together very quickly, but the truth is that while treating coccidia is fairly simple, explaining why I think the simplest treatment is the best one gets very complicated, very quickly.

Now, I know I’ve scared the crap out of you and basically told you just how coccidia is going to kill your rabbits and ruin your life, but let me give you a little hope!

There are things you can do to help prevent coccidia infection, and there are treatment options available.

In Part Two, I gave you the sporulation and pre-patent period information for the most common species of coccidia that affect rabbits. Here is a condensed version of that:

Hepatic (liver) species:

E stiedae PP: 14 – 18 days

Sporulation: 3 days

Intestinal species:

E magna PP: 6 – 8 days

Sporulation: 2 – 3 days

E irresidua PP: 9 – 10 days

Sporulation: 2 – 2.5 days

E media PP: 4.5 – 6 days

Sporulation: 2 days

E perforans PP: 5 – 6 days

Sporulation: 2 days

E flavescens PP: 7 – 9 days

Sporulation: 4 days

E intestinalis PP: 9 days

Sporulation: 2 days

As you can see, the shortest sporulation time is 2 days, and the longest pre-patent period is 18 days. Those points are important to know because you don’t necessarily have to diagnose the exact species of coccidia to effectively treat it.

To reiterate again from Part Two, the sporulation time is the time it takes from eggs being expelled in the feces to the time they become infectious, and the pre-patent period (PP) is the amount of time from when the rabbit ingests an infectious egg until the coccidia from it mature and begin producing eggs themselves.

So, as soon as two days after being expelled in the feces, eggs are infectious. Within 18 days of being consumed (and hundreds or thousands of those infectious eggs can be consumed DAILY), those infectious eggs have essentially hatched releasing 8 immature coccidia each, and those have then invaded the intestinal or organ tissues, matured and created potentially thousands of other immature coccidia, and have begun producing more eggs.

Because the route of transmission is fecal contamination, housekeeping plays a vital role in containing and treating coccidia.

Fecal contamination does not mean visibly dirty!

Anything feces touches, even momentarily, can have coccidia eggs on it, even cage wire. So, the rabbit poops, that poop rolls across a wire and falls through. The rabbit then steps on that wire, and it’s foot is contaminated. Hopping around, eggs are spread from the foot, all around the cage and to the other feet. At some point, the rabbit puts it’s foot on the feeder or waterer. A couple of days later, the eggs transferred there are ready to infect the rabbit further.

Think about every possible contamination point….poop in a feeder or water bowl, on resting pads, on the floor and side wire, on nest boxes or toys, on the feed scoop you dropped on the floor, on YOUR hands after touching the rabbit or cleaning it’s cage or litter box….it really is SO easy for those eggs to get spread around!

In most situations it is virtually impossible to eliminate all sources of contamination. You can seriously make yourself crazy trying! Just ask me how I know LOL

What you can and should do is maintain a regular, thorough cleaning routine. What you MUST do when you suspect coccidiosis is implement one IMMEDIATELY.

This involves not only keeping the environment free of feces buildup, but also regular cleaning of feeders, waterers, and the surfaces of the rabbit’s housing as well.

Removing feces from the living environment removes the contamination source, but it does not kill the eggs. The eggs are essentially impervious to everything! One thing they are destroyed by however is a 10% ammonia solution.

One thing they are destroyed by however is a 10% ammonia solution.

NOTE: Household cleaning ammonia is NOT sufficient. You must use industrial strength, 10% ammonia. Check our favorite products page for a source to buy it!

If you clean regularly, and sanitize with 10% ammonia, you will keep the exposure level to a minimum. That’s not to say that you will never have a rabbit with coccidia, but the severity of disease is absolutely dependant on the level of exposure AND the overall immune system status of the rabbit.

That’s not to say that you will never have a rabbit with coccidia, but the severity of disease is absolutely dependant on the level of exposure AND the overall immune system status of the rabbit.

So what about preventatives? Think about that….a preventative actually stops (prevents) something from happening, right?

Well, when it comes to coccidia, compounds are marketed as preventatives, but they actually ONLY work once the rabbit already has the parasite.

The only TRUE preventative is to keep rabbits from contacting oocytes in feces.

Some will say that you cannot totally prevent coccidia infection, and I say you can go ahead and ask a Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) breeder or laboratory about that. You absolutely CAN prevent the parasite entirely, though for most of us it’s simply not plausible to do so, or to maintain a SPF line.

Focus then really has to be on treatment, whether a company calls it’s product a preventative or not.

Now here’s one point where it gets even more confusing – many of these products are chemically known as polyether antibiotics, or ionophores. To learn more about what exactly those are, go here.

One of the compounds marketed as a preventative, and widely used particularly in the massive European production rabbitries, is diclazuril.

What diclazuril does is damage the coccidia during both asexual and sexual reproduction, which reduces the number of oocytes that are produced and shed.

So, diclazuril does NOT actually prevent coccidia infection at all. It reduces the number of oocytes that are produced AFTER infection has occurred. The rabbit still has coccidia, and some damage is still being done inside the intestine (which can still result in decreased appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, and decreased ability to digest feed).

There is also the problem of resistance that can develop to the drug over time, which results in having to add another compound or change compounds altogether.

Now, if you go searching for a way to buy diclazuril here in the United States, you’ll find that there is only one FDA approved product in the US (Protzail pellets for horses), and that it is insanely expensive.

I’ve done a bit of research for you though, and can tell you that the approved usual dose of the drug diclazuril for rabbits, according to European research and maximum residue standards, is about 0.067 mg per kg of body weight each day, which is usually delivered by mixing the compound at a rate of 1 ppm in the feed.

The usual feed additive dose and withdrawal time is listed in the product information for the diclazuril additive Clinacox, and here is the Maximum Residue Limits report from the European Medicines Agency.

You can find the same kind of information for several other products such as Sacox with a simple Google search.

For what it’s worth, you can save your time because there are exactly ZERO of these products available or approved for use in rabbits in the United States. Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t use it, but the cost alone is prohibitive for most, and you have to seriously consider withdrawal times. We’re talking about a 70 day growth period here, not 280 days.

My personal treatment of choice is Corid 9.6%. It is cheap, effective when used properly, and has a 24 hour withdrawal time (and because it’s just a synthetic vitamin, observing withdrawal times is optional for personal consumption).

I’m going to tell you how I personally treat a coccidia outbreak.
I have not saved every rabbit that got sick, and I am not a Veterinarian, but within 48 hours I have stopped the outbreak, every single time, in my rabbitry.

My treatment of choice IS amprolium, aka Corid.

Previously, research indicated amprolium dosed at 8mg/kg was effective, albeit not totally effective at preventing the development and shedding of oocytes.

Current, 2018 published research, shows that doses of up to 20mg/kg are as effective as antibiotic drugs at not only stopping outbreaks, but also at stopping oocyte shedding.

I use the liquid, 9.6%, Corid formulation. This product delivers 9.6mg of amprolium per 0.1cc, or 96mg per 1cc.

Given the new research, my 0.1cc per whole or partial pound dosing protocols effectiveness makes sense.

I dose sick rabbits at 0.1cc per pound, rounding up to the next whole pound. This provides 9.6mg amprolium per pound, and I give it orally once a day.

In group situations, such as a growout pen or colony, I dose at 30cc per gallon of water. This solution delivers 22.5mg amprolium per ounce of water…for every two whole pounds of body weight, a growout need only consume less than 1 ounce of amprolium water.

In all cases where I feel it necessary to treat for coccidia, I treat for 14 days, stop for 7, and repeat for another 14. This duration will treat all of the common species to infect domestic rabbits, including hepatic coccidia.

Remember when dosing via water, the rabbit has to consume enough of that water each day to receive at least 8mg/kg, and the water has to be mixed fresh every 24 hours. Individual dosing assures the proper dose is recieved daily.

The treatment time I always use is 14 days on, 7 days off, and repeat for 14 days. This treatment protocol addresses even the hepatic coccidia E stiedae, but it must be strictly adhered to to be successful.

For those looking for an all natural alternative, new research is indicating that 100mg/kg of whole wormwood not only reduces the number of oocytes produced, but increases weight gain in fryers. Check out that study here!

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