Coccidiosis - Game Birds

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There are three main species of coccidia in pheasants, all three of which fall into the Eimeria genus. In the guinea fowl there are two species described which cause severe disease. Partridges and Quail also are known to be susceptible to coccidia which will cause acute and severe enteritis.

Poults succumb to the disease much more readily than older birds, with severe enteritis causing mortality in some cases. In game birds however, in comparison to other farmed birds, the disease is less prevalent as game birds are usually kept in outdoor pens in a less intensive environment.

Clinical Signs

General malaise and depression such as a reluctance to eat and weight loss is seen in more chronic forms of the disease. In acute types, sudden death may be the only sign noticed. Mucoid or haemorrhagic diarrhoea is usually seen with most coccidia species.


History and clinical signs, along with a post mortem of a sick bird that is unlikely to recover (the bird will be sacrificed because of this for the purpose of the post mortem). Gross lesions that may be seen on post mortem include caseous core lesion in the caecum, along with a build up of reddish- brown fluid in the intestines.

A sample of mucosa should be taken for examination under the microscope in order to identify oocysts, which will confirm the diagnosis. Specific identification of genus of coccidia is not required as treatment is the same for all.

Treatment and Control

Hygiene measures are important in controlling the disease. With game birds it is especially important to try to prevent wild birds entering the enclosure or defecating in the area as wild birds tend to have high levels of coccidia but are usually resistant to it.

If an outbreak does occur, treatment should be given in the form of sulphonamides. Other anticoccidial treatments should not be used as their safety in game birds is not known.


Merck & Co (2008) The Merck Veterinary Manual (Eighth Edition) Merial
Jordan, F, Pattison, M, Alexander, D, Fargher, T (1999) Poultry Diseases (Fifth Edition) W.B. Saunders
Saif, Y.M (2008) Diseases of Poultry (Twelfth Edition) Blackwell Publishing

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