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We first discussed about worms last week when we discussed the negative health effects of Cysticercosis and Taeniasis in pigs and humans. We have since been receiving feedback messages and inquiries, and have decided to continue with a weekly series on worms that are of zoonotic importance andthat negatively affect livestock production. The post will be published once for the next 4 weeks and though we will definitely not cover everything on parasitic worms, you will have enough information for your livestock farm. Remember that you can always contact us when you need core professional advice and veterinary referrals.

In this series, we will discuss the most important worms that affect livestock animals (specifically cattle, sheep, goat and pigs) in Nigeria. We will also talk briefly on the effects and dangers of these parasitic worms on the health and productivity of our livestock animals. In subsequent weeks, we will then discuss zoonotic worms, deworming routines and tips on related livestock management. For our final post on worms, we will introduce a new and interesting concept about worms that has become a global hot-bed of debate and that will really blow your mind away. So stay glued and subscribe to our posts so you don’t miss any of this!

So, let’s get into today’s discussion.

There are different types of worms in different species which are present in different domestic and wild animals, and humans. Some worms might be considered beneficial but most are known to be dangerous to human and animal health. Some worms are specifically adapted to one animal alone, while others can survive in various species, humans or animals. Some worms spend some of their life cycle in one or more primary and secondary hosts while others are transmitted to humans or animals directly without need for a vector.

There is very wide variety of classes of worms but we will present to you the most common classes of worms (and a specie example) in cattle, sheep, goat and pigs. (And just because it’s simply fun, the scientific names of the worms would be mentioned alongside their common names. We hope it becomes fun for you too…)

Worms in cattle

  1. Nematodes (Roundworms): They are mostly found in the tropical places and some common ones include the following;

worm roundworm     Roundworm

  • Stomach worm (Haemonchus placei)
  • Small intestinal worm (Cooperia oncophora)
  • Nodule worm (Oesophagostomum radiatum)
  • Hookworm (Bunostomum phlebotomum)
  • Lungworm (Dictyocaulus viviparus)

These worms may occasionally be present together (more than 3 species) in one animal causing a heavy burden. Lungworms normally migrate through the body and reproduce in the lungs causing pneumonia, heavy coughs and death.

  1. Tapeworms (Cestoda)

worm tapeworm   Tapeworm

Tapeworms (Cestoda) cause relatively lesser side effects than nematodes except that they compete with the animal’s food. They could also be concurrently present with nematodes in the same animal and they could block the digestive tract when there is heavy infestation.

  1. Fluke

worm liver fluke   Liver Fluke

These include

  • Stomach fluke (Paramphistomes, Amphistomes) and
  • Liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica)

They are common in high rainfall and swampy areas and can also be found in drought periods when cattle graze areas that normally would be flooded. They have a secondary host – the snail – through which they complete their life cycle. They are blood-suckers and the immature flukes migrate in the intestine and liver causing severe effects like anaemia, diarrhea, dehydration, poor growth, oedema, weight loss and death.

Worms in Pigs

In the sow, the important parasites include the following;

worm whipworm     Whip worm

  • Ascarids (Ascaris suum),
  • Red stomach worms (Hyostrongylus rubidus)
  • Whip worms (Trichuris suis)
  • Threadworm (Strongyloides ransomi)

They all have direct life cycles which entails growing from eggs in faeces to adults in the intestine after ingestion of the eggs in feaces by the animal. These parasites affect mostly piglets. Therefore, if sows are not regularly dewormed, they are usually source of infections to their piglets.

Worms in sheep and goat

Sheep are the most susceptible to parasites because they graze close to the soil surface and they are slow to acquire immunity against the intestinal worms. The following worms most commonly affect sheep and goats

worm wire worm    Picture of wire worm

  • Wire worm a.k.a Barber pole (Haemonchus Contortus)
  • Tapeworm (Moniezia spp.)
  • Liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica)
  • Lung worm (Dictyocaulus filarial and Muellerius capillaris)

The barber pole worm is a the largest blood-sucking worm parasite and is the most deadly stomach worm. It causes severe anemia, protein loss and “bottle jaw,” syndrome which is basically a swelling of fluid under the jaw. Sadly, the worm is difficult to control because it has a short, direct life cycle and produces very high amounts of eggs (more than 5,000 eggs) per day.

For tapeworms the effects in sheep and goat is similar to what is found in cattle.

Liver flukes require snail as an intermediate host and as indicated, they cause liver damage and death in sheep and goats.

Lungworm eggs are passed in the feces and travel to the lungs (trachea and bronchi). In severe infestation, they cause fever, coughing, nasal discharge and may predispose the animal to bacterial infection.

Effects of worms on livestock

It is fairly common for livestock animals to become infected with a worm at some point in its lifetime. In most developing countries, even humans become infected with worms at some point in their lives. Most worm infestations cause any of these clinical symptoms; diarrhea, (sometimes with blood or with worms or eggs), weight loss and vomiting, dry hair and general poor appearance. Some worm infestations cause little or no effects and the livestock farmer might not know until he/she deworms the animal. However, generally worms impair the growth and productivity of young animals and cause a reduction in milk and meat production.

Your veterinarian or livestock specialist can help you with the treatment of worms in your livestock farm if its an issue you constantly battle with or you see any of these symptoms.

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