Goat health: Tapeworms

Dr. Last Hungwe

Tapeworm egg packets in faecal matter.
Tapeworms in faecal matter.

Goats can be infected by a number of internal parasites. These include round worms, tapeworms, tapeworm cysts and others. Internal parasites can reduce productivity and adversely affect animal health and welfare.

 The most common tapeworm of sheep and goats are Moniezia tapeworms. They are generally considered to be of very low significance especially in adult animals. Tapeworms as long as 20m can be found in the gut where they can compete with the host for nutrients, hinder normal gut motility, and excrete some toxins.  

The tapeworm requires two hosts to complete its life cycle. Goats pass out tapeworm eggs individually or as packets which are usually visible to the owner. The eggs infect a pasture mite that serves as the intermediate host. Goats ingest the mite while grazing and the eggs hatch and develop in the small intestine of the goat, allowing the tapeworm to complete its life cycle.

Clinical signs

Tapeworms rarely cause disease in kids less than 6 months of age. Their effect on adult health is controversial: some authorities claim that heavy tapeworm infestation and can cause increased cases of enteritis, diarrhoea, constipation and anaemia.

Diagnosis and treatment

A diagnosis can be made by finding proglottids (egg packets) in stools and by laboratory egg counts. Treatment with albendazole, fenbendazole, or praziquantel may be effective either with a single treatment or with daily therapy for 3- 5 days. Because of the free-living nature of the arthropod intermediate host, animals are readily re-infected after treatment, which may give rise to the false assumption that the therapy was ineffective. Tapeworm infestation may result in disease, but often it is easier to blame the tapeworm segment seen in the stool as a cause of disease than to implicate the unseen thousands of other complex parasites in the abomasum and small intestine of the animal.

Routinely deworm your kids at 4 weeks for and at weaning (100 days) to prevent them from carrying worms into adulthood. Adults can be dewormed after a laboratory faecal egg count or after observing egg packets in the faeces. The farmer can also deworm adults at the beginning of winter (May) early summer (November) and mid-summer (January).

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