Coccidia are microscopic motile parasites, or can be described as primitive eggs. If picked up in massive numbers sudden death may result. They are found in the small intestine of birds. Their eggs, called oocysts, are passed in the droppings. They are often ingested when food or water is fouled.
This can be a very serious disease in Canaries when using breeding boxes, when the weather is warm and humid and particularly if the floor of the cabinet is damp.
There are numerous species of coccidia. Eimeria spp and lsospora spp being the most common.

The following are the most common triggers to coccidiosis in Canaries: overcrowding, hot humid conditions, wet cage floor, other concurrent disease, birds under stress, young birds around 8 weeks old.

With an outbreak of Coccidiosis the only certain diagnosis should be done by a qualified Veterinarian.
Birds may show signs of stress & weight loss, diarrhoea, lethargy, and dehydration and may also show a dirty vent. The birds appear to go “Light”.
Birds passing oocysts as observed under a microscope may or may not be ill as some oocysts is expected under normal conditions. If however a huge volume exist and/or in the various stages of the life cycle you can be sure. An autopsy will reveal massive haemorrhage, free blood around the organs and massive swelling of the upper part of the small intestine. Death is caused by the massive blood loss.

Separate from the other birds any birds showing symptoms.
Clean and dry all the cages. Remove and clean all food containers. Insure all drinking water cannot become fouled. Anti-coccidial drugs should be used to treat infections, and in some cases can be used as coccidistats if disease flares up as soon as treatment finishes. Products available include, Coccivet (Vetafarm), Toltro (Agrotech Australia), Baycox (Bayer). It is impossible to totally rid your cages of oocysts and a small number result in the birds building immunity.

If you want to understand the life cycle (bit technical) read on, otherwise go straight to the product review below.
“The entire coccidia group has basically similar direct life cycles. The bird is infected by ingestion of a sporulated oocyst. These hatch in the intestine and undergo a number of asexual (schizogonous) generations in the small intestine. If the schizonts occur deep within the mucosa they may cause extensive trauma to that mucosa when they rupture. Intestinal haemorrhage may result.
If, however, they parasitise surface epithelial cells, their effect may be minimal. After undergoing, their schizogonous cycle the parasites differentiate into male and female forms (micro and macrogarnetocytes respectively) and undergo a sexual (gametocytic) generation. This phase is usually considered to be relatively non- pathogenic. The culmination of the sexual cycle is the production of oocysts, which are passed in the faeces, usually in the non-sporulated form. Exposure to a warm moist environment facilitates development of the oocyst to its infective form.”
“Each species of coccidia is generally regarded as being a fairly, host specific parasite, and capable of infecting only the species of bird from which it was obtained.”

(Vetafarm Wagga Wagga)
For the treatment of Coccidiosis in Birds. Coccivet can also be used in rabbits and other small animals at the same dosage rate. Available in 30ml, 250ml, 5Ltr
Guaranteed Analysis: Amprolium 80g/L Ethopabate 5.1g/L
Directions: Mix 15mL of Coccivet in 10 Litres of drinking water, remove all other drinking sources during treatment. Treat all birds continuously for 5-7 days. Repeat treatment as required.

Dr David Madill
Dr Harry Cooper B.V.Sc.- Budgerigar Council of Victoria
Queensland Government – Department of Primary Industry
http://www.vetafarm.com.au

Author: Peter Ailwood - Published 15/12/04