Common But Unimportant Worms in Goats

Episode 48
For the Love of Goats

Common But Unimportant Worms in Goats

Because barber pole worm (haemonchus contortus) causes so many deaths among goats, we don’t talk about other worms much. Barber pole is the worm that sucks blood and causes goats to become anemic, which can cause a goat to go downhill rapidly and even die.

Goats can be walking around with a host of other worms in their body, however, and ironically most of those worms are unimportant and don’t cause disease. So, why are we talking about them? Because most people think that all worms must be killed, and ultimately, the attempt to kill all the worms can result in the barber pole worm killing your goats.

Since barber pole worm can become resistant to dewormers, we should only use dewormers when the health of the goat is being negatively affected by worms. The more we use a dewormer, the sooner barber pole is going to become resistant to that dewormer — and then barber pole can kill your goats.

In this episode, I am talking about these common but unimportant worms with Dr. Ann Zajac, Professor Emeritus of Parasitology at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. We’re discussing tapeworms, threadworms (strongyloides), pinworms, whipworms, and lungworms, and why we don’t usually need to be worried about their existence inside our goats.

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Introduction 0:03
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann 0:18
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. I am really excited to be talking today about other worms that show up in fecal exams that we don’t really talk about very much or hear much about. And we’re going to talk about them today, and talk about why we don’t hear much about them. And joining me is Dr. Anne Zajac, Professor Emeritus of Parasitology at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. Thanks for joining us today, Dr. Zajac.

Anne Zajac 0:51
Well, thank you so much for letting me talk about worms, which I love doing, and I’m happy to talk about them anytime.

Deborah Niemann 1:00
Awesome! This is a subject very near and dear to my heart, because I learned all about worms the hard way: by having my goats have a lot of problems and dealing with dewormer resistance and everything. And so, like most people, I mostly know about barber pole worm because that is the blood-sucking parasite that is responsible for the deaths of lots of goats and sheep in this country every year. But then, people wonder about other worms, too. Sometimes they may see other worms in fecal reports, or the scariest one—and a vet said to me once that “tapeworms are worse for the mental health of the owner than the physical health of the goat,” because they look so gross. So, let’s start with that one. Because I know, people, if you’re out there, and you see your goat poop, and it looks like there’s noodles or rice in their poop, you are just freaking out and thinking, “Oh my goodness, something terrible is gonna happen to my goat, because this can’t be good that there’s worms in there!” So let’s start. Tell us a little bit about tapeworm.

Anne Zajac 2:03
Okay. And let me start by saying that I’ve worked with sheep and goat worms for my entire career, which is a lot of years now. And also, I’m a sheep owner. And so when you say, you know, how horrifying it is to see these masses of slimy tapeworms, I know exactly what you mean. I remember once my husband took some lambs to the market, and when he came back, the bed of the truck seemed to have tapeworm segments all over it. So, I know exactly what you mean. And it is a horrifying sight. And it’s very difficult to imagine that these tapeworms aren’t causing a huge problem in our animals. But, the tapeworms that we see in sheep and goats—it’s the same worm. They share those tapeworms. And it has a lifecycle that involves the adult worms being in sheep or goats, and they’re very long, as you know, they can be quite long; we tend to see chains of segments coming out of the animals, but the entire worm itself is feet in length. Eggs come out in those packages in the segments. The segment is just a little package of eggs. And, when it reaches the environment, little mites—that are free-living mites, not parasitic mites—but free-living pasture mites come along and feed on the segment material, and they eat the eggs. And a little larval tapeworm then forms inside the pasture mite, which is basically microscopic—the mite and the larval tapeworm. And then, as animals are grazing, they ingest that mite with the larval tapeworm in it, and that’s how they become infected. So, there’s an intermediate host for that parasite, which is the larval mite. And the larvae inside the mite are kind of protected from environmental conditions and can apparently overwinter inside the mites. So it keeps the tapeworms around, and we can see, really, tapeworms just about any time of year—not so much in the winter.

Anne Zajac 4:29
So they’re very, very common. And you have to assume that every kid and lamb that’s out there will get infected with tapeworms if they’re on pasture. It’s just inevitable; sooner or later, infection will occur. And there’s a widespread feeling that the presence of this foreign material in the intestinal tract—they’re in the small intestine—all that foreign material must be causing a lot of damage. If nothing else, it just takes up space. But, in fact, the studies that have been done to try and demonstrate perhaps reduced weight gain, or diarrhea, or other consequences of that tapeworm infection that would require that we really be on top of those tapeworms and get rid of them when they occur… It’s very, very, very difficult to show any real impact on animal growth or health as a result of those tapeworms. Now, there are cases that have been reported where tapeworms have been given as the cause of death because they caused an obstruction in the gut. I think that’s very difficult to know for sure as the cause of death, because when the animal dies, you’re still going to have some intestinal activity, and you could get movement of the tapeworms, and they could kind of make a ball and look like an obstruction when you necropsy the animal. So, I don’t know, even in those cases of obstruction, that we know for sure that the tapeworms caused it. And those are rare. So the big question is: When I see the tapeworms, do I need to treat that? Do I need to get rid of them? And the answer is: No, not really. If the animals seem fine, if the animals are in good shape, there probably is not a compelling reason to treat them for tapeworms if you just see a few segments. And, in fact, it’s very probable that using the white drenches, like Valbazen and Safe-guard… Using those products a lot to treat tapeworms, because of the concern people had about tapeworms, just added to the use of those drugs that contributed to the development of drug resistance in barber pole worms. So, in fact, we don’t want to be treating unnecessarily for tapeworms.

Deborah Niemann 7:21
So, when my third book came out, there was a TV morning show that wanted me to be on, and I took some goats with me, because they wanted goats on the set. And, we were in there I don’t think even 5 minutes when the goats started pooping, because I had naively put hay in the dog crate for them to eat on the trip there. So, that was a very bad move on my part. But, thank goodness, it was all normal, perfect pellets, because people were freaking out over the perfect pellets, even. And then, I brought the goats home, and the moment I let them out, one of them started pooping again. And it was filled with tapeworm segments. And I was just horrified. Because thinking, like, “Oh my goodness, if she had done that two hours earlier, that would have been, like, the worst thing ever. I can’t imagine how these TV production people would have responded to this on their carpet,” like, considering how freaked out they were about just the fecal pellets. And so, I actually learned two things from this. One is—that I’ve heard vets say a lot—they’re not always shedding worms every time they poop, because, obviously, they weren’t a couple hours earlier. And then, the other thing I learned was that the tapeworms were not bothering this goat. I mean, this goat was in outstanding condition. She had an A1 FAMACHA score, you know, like, everything about her was perfect. And, I think sometimes people really have to see that connection for themselves to be like, “Oh, yeah, that’s true.” And what I think happens a lot with tapeworms—because somebody said to me, she was like, “I’ve had some really sick goats who had tapeworms”—is, I think, it is guilt by association. Because Safe-guard and Valbazen will kill barber pole worm, and so, if you have a goat in really bad shape, and then you happen to see tapeworms, and you treat them with Valbazen, for example, it’s not just going to kill the tapeworms. It’s going to kill the barber pole worms, too. So, it was great to have you explain why the tapeworms themselves really are not a problem.

Anne Zajac 9:37
I think that’s absolutely—you’re absolutely right. That it has contributed so much to the idea that tapeworms do cause problems. That you’re getting rid of all the other worms, too, when you use those treatments. And so, you saw these disgusting creatures, you treated the animal, you killed off the barber pole worm, and “Oh boy, now my animal looks so much better.” And I think that that’s a really important point, that you are killing other parasites, too, with that tapeworm treatment. And so, it’s easy to think that it was the tapeworm causing the problems, because they’re so visible. And I don’t want to say that it is absolutely impossible, that there has never been an animal that’s had problems with its tapeworms, because you never say “never.” But, as something that needs to be dealt with on a routine basis, as part of normal herd health management, tapeworms really shouldn’t be driving your parasite control practices.

Deborah Niemann 10:46
Right. So, when you’ve got a goat that’s got a perfect body condition, pooping perfect pellets, no bottle jaw, like, no symptoms of parasites, and you see segments in their poop, there’s no reason to reach for the dewormer.

Anne Zajac 11:00
No. No.

Deborah Niemann 11:02
Another worm that you mentioned that would be interesting to talk about was strongyles. And that is one I have no experience with, which is kind of exciting to me, because I feel like the queen of worms sometimes.

Anne Zajac 11:16
Okay. Let me just correct you a little bit. It’s not “strongyles.”

Deborah Niemann 11:21

Anne Zajac 11:22
It’s “Strongyloides.”

Deborah Niemann 11:24
I knew I should have written out the whole thing.

Anne Zajac 11:26
Now, “strongyles,” the early parasitologists had very little imagination, because they put this kind of root word—S, T, R, O, N, G, the strong part—they attached that to all kinds of things. And it’s really easy to confuse all these different worms whose names start with “strong.” Right? So that “strongyle” is a term we use for parasites, and it’s used a lot, but the worm I want to talk about right now is Strongyloides. And, if any of your listeners have had problems, or have had discussions with their veterinarians about it, they may have heard it called “threadworm.” Sometimes there’s that common word used, but I’m just going to use the scientific word Strongyloides. Strongyloides… If you’re sending off fecal samples for analysis and a McMaster exam, the results may come back with “Strongyloides” on it. Now, here, let me emphasize again that some labs will report out barber pole worm, as—they’ll have a category that they call “strongyles.” They may use that word “strongyle.” And barber pole worm would fall into that category. But that’s, you know, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a very different worm called “Strongyloides,” or threadworm. And this is a little, tiny, maybe about 1/4-of-an-inch long worm that lives in the small intestine. And I’ve had several producers—one, in fact, wasn’t too long ago—ask me about this worm, because they’ve had some problems with their animals: diarrhea, poor condition, sometimes even death. And, based on fecal exam results, their veterinarians have told them they thought it was a Strongyloides problem, that that was the cause.

Anne Zajac 13:35
And so, I want to address this worm a little bit, because it, like tapeworms, does have disease attributed to it sometimes. So, this little tiny worm lives in the small intestine of animals. And again, sheep and goats share the same species of Strongyloides. Eggs come out, are passed out in the feces of the animal, and now something really weird happens—unlike all the other worm parasites we’ve talked about. When the eggs come out in the manure, and they’re in the environment, the little larvae that form have a choice. And those larvae that hatch out of the eggs can go through some development and form infective larvae that can then infect another sheep or goat. Or, if it’s nice out, and the environmental conditions are really nice, what those little worms might do is follow a different path, and become males and females in the environment, and mate, and produce their own eggs. And those eggs can go on to become larvae that will be parasitic and infect sheep and goats. So, there’s this possibility for alternating generations of parasitic worms and free-living worms. It’s very bizarre. And the consequence of that is that it means that, because there’s this free-living period that can take place in the environment, it can help multiply the number of worms that are out there. And then, the other different thing about this worm, that’s different from barber pole worm or most of the other worms, is that when Strongyloides goes to infect an animal, it penetrates through the skin and then migrates through the animal to the intestinal tract. Goats could also eat the larvae, but mostly, they actually penetrate through the skin. Oh, and the other weird thing! This parasite is so complicated, because some of them, when they penetrate through the skin of animal, will go into the tissues and just be dormant. And then, when you have a pregnant animal, right around the time of parturition, right around the time that they kid, those little larvae become activated, and they migrate to the mammary glands. And, for the first couple months of parturition, larvae can be passed through the milk into the kid or lamb. Right? So they can infect the animals by penetrating through the skin; they can infect newborn animals through the milk. It’s just—this worm has just got the most amazing adaptations for its survival.

Anne Zajac 16:50
So here again, with all this going on, you think, “Oh my gosh, the potential for damage is huge.” But, in fact, most young animals are going to have a Strongyloides infection, and nothing happens. So, you get back this fecal report, you see these eggs there—sometimes they’re there in large numbers—the animal’s fine… There’s no real consequence to infection. However, it does seem as though, under very, very specific conditions, sometimes you can get problems with Strongyloides. And, I think, the specific conditions where you might get some clinical problems with it would be when you have very, very moist conditions—moist, kind of dirty conditions that the animals are in—so that the numbers of these parasites in the environment build up. And, to me, the kind of situation where I think that might happen might be, say, if you had really, really wet weather, and animals were maybe spending a lot of time in a muddy lot—young animals without a strong immune response yet. Maybe some other things going on, too; maybe nutritionally suffering a bit, or something. And so they get exposed to lots and lots of worms—way out of the normal, sort of, range of worms. Typically, though, the worms can be there, and in apparently relatively large numbers, because you may see a number of eggs in the fecal sample, and they just don’t seem to be doing anything. So, when people tell me their vet has diagnosed a Strongyloides problem, then I look for those other things that may have led to unusual circumstances that gave the parasite a bit of an upper hand. Generally, once animals are mature, they have such a strong immune response to this parasite: It’s gone. You just never see it after they reach sexual maturity. You don’t see it in fecal samples at all. It’s a young animal disease.

Deborah Niemann 19:14
That is fascinating.

Anne Zajac 19:16
Yeah! I mean, it’s… You know, barber pole worm is so dominant over everything. And we think about barber pole worm to the exclusion of all these. There’s a bunch of these little worms; they’re just quietly doing their own thing. And, for the most part, they really are of no significance at all in these grazing animals that are exposed to them all the time.

Deborah Niemann 19:42
Wow, that is fascinating. And I… The more I learn about all of these other worms and stuff, like, out there, also the more I can understand where people get confused about things. Because I think so many people—like, they just think “worms.” And they are all very, very specific. You know, it’s like if you think of the category of “mammals,” like, yeah, we’re mammals, and goats are mammals, but we don’t have a whole lot in common with each other. You know? And that’s the same case with, like, all these different worms. Just because the Strongyloides can get absorbed through the skin and go through the milk to the babies doesn’t mean any other worm can do that.

Anne Zajac 20:23

Deborah Niemann 20:24
Like, this is a very special worm. And thankfully, it doesn’t really cause much trouble.

Anne Zajac 20:29
Right, right.

Deborah Niemann 20:29
Because, if it did cause trouble—wow. We wouldn’t have any goats. Like, I could just imagine… Because it’s so adaptable in terms of all the different ways that it can infect an animal, and reproduce, and all that kind of stuff.

Anne Zajac 20:45
Right. Right! Yeah, it’s a very successful little worm. But there’s a, you know, a finely balanced relationship between that mammalian host and this little worm, and, under normal circumstances, the balance is maintained. Now, if you had your goats as house pets, we’d probably take the same approach that we take with dogs and cats: That, if he’s sharing your bed, you really don’t want that animal to have worms. And so we’re more aggressive about worm control with house pets. We can’t afford to do that with our grazing animals, just because we can’t eliminate the parasites from them. We have to accept that there are these cycles going on all the time, and the idea is not to let any of them get out of control. Is to, you know, is to manage them. We just manage them, and make sure there’s no big problem caused. Now, with Strongyloides, again, it’s like the tapeworms in that the products we use to treat that barber pole worm, especially the “mectin” drugs—the, you know, the Moxidectin and the Ivermectin—those in particular are highly effective against Strongyloides. So, when you do go out and need to use them for the barber pole worm, you’re going to affect those Strongyloides worms as well.

Deborah Niemann 22:14
Okay. That is great to know. Before we got started and we were talking about these things, you mentioned that pinworm is another worm that people can see in their goats’ poop. Now, how do you know that you’re seeing tapeworms or pinworms? Pinworms are smaller? How much smaller?

Anne Zajac 22:32
Okay, so pinworms, they don’t show up very often in manure. And, probably, you’d only notice them if there were a bunch. Because they, too, are very small—only about a 1/4 of an inch in length. And they have pointy ends; they really sort of satisfy our idea more of what a worm looks like. And, if you’ve ever seen human pinworms, they look very much like that. But I want to be absolutely clear—make sure this is one thing everybody goes away with—that the sheep and goat pinworm is not the same as the human pinworm. You cannot get pinworms from goats. You can’t get pinworms from anything other than another person. So, the little sheep and goat pinworm, this little, tiny, white, wormy-looking thing, if there are a number of them in a fecal pellet, you might notice them—they cause absolutely no problem. Pinworms in people can cause a lot of irritation and itching, and in sheep and goats, they don’t seem to cause anything like that. It’s just another one of those worms that’s there. And we don’t see those in a fecal sample. So, you’ll never get a report back on a fecal sample that says it has pinworms in it, because, similar to the human pinworm, the female worm crawls out of the anus and lays its eggs—sticks its eggs to the skin—right around the anus. Right? So the eggs are never in the manure; they’re stuck to the skin. And then, gradually, they kind of—as the goat does its thing moving around—the eggs kind of gradually come off the skin. They’re released into the environment. And they can get kind of stuck on other surfaces, and then just, gradually, animals ingest them. So another very common, but completely unimportant, parasite.

Deborah Niemann 24:39
“Common but unimportant” might be a good name for this episode.

Anne Zajac 24:43
That’s right! That’s exactly right. And, I think, this episode is for the people who just like to know, I think, and appreciate that there’s a whole, kind of, universe of stuff going on around there—out there—and that you don’t have to be concerned about. And I think it is good to know a bit about things that you don’t have to be concerned about. Because sometimes they pop up.

Deborah Niemann 25:10
Right. Another one that you mentioned that is somewhat common, but unimportant, is whipworm.

Anne Zajac 25:19
Another very common parasite, especially of young animals. As they get older and their immune system gets more developed, you see less whipworm. Now, if you have got dogs, you know, whipworm’s one of the common parasites of dogs that can cause really nasty diarrhea and unpleasant consequences for dogs. And so, it’s one of the ones that we really do want to control in dogs. The one that occurs in sheep and goats is a different species, again, so dogs cannot infect sheep and goats; sheep and goats cannot infect dogs. And it’s another one of these worms that, under normal circumstances, it’s never a problem. It just doesn’t cause issues. It may show up—the eggs may show up—on a fecal exam, but you wouldn’t need to treat an animal for whipworms. There are a few reports, very few reports, of problems in… more in calves than in small ruminants, where it seemed that overwhelming infection caused diarrhea. And, again, I think that must occur under very, very specific management conditions—very, very specific situations. But I, in my career, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a case in a small ruminant where I thought whipworms were responsible for any disease, and I’ve certainly not even talked to anybody, I think, who had a problem with whipworms. It’s just another worm that’s there.

Anne Zajac 27:06
And there’s another one related to whipworms, that is seen less commonly, but shows up sometimes on fecal samples. It’s got a bizarre scientific name of Aoncotheca. And that worm is so inoffensive nobody, to my knowledge, has ever studied it. I mean, it’s just, you see these eggs sometimes. I’ve seen the adult worm; it’s maybe about an inch long, and real thin, and it lives in the small intestine, but it has never had disease attributed to it. So, again, you’ve got this universe, let’s say, inside of a sheep or goat that supports the presence of these parasites that have evolved along with with the goat host. Right? And there’s this balance that’s achieved between the parasite and the host so that both of them can live quite happily. And most of the disease that we see from worms, and in grazing animals, is because we’ve created management conditions that allow the numbers to build up. And that’s where the big problems come in.

Deborah Niemann 28:29
So, pretty much, when you get a fecal back, the main worm you should be concerned with are the roundworms, mostly because barber pole or Haemonchus contortus is the one that is the blood-sucking parasite, that causes of anemia, that can just kill a goat within a few days.

Anne Zajac 28:47
Right. And labs will use different names for those worms. Right? So, barber pole worm has an egg that’s really similar in appearance to some of the other worms that are in the same family that also live in the GI tract. So, depending on the lab, they may report those out as “trichostrongyles,” which is just the whole group of worms that produce eggs that look like this, you know. They may report them out as “strongyles.” My lab would report them out as “strongylids” to kind of encompass the larger group. And some labs will even report them out as “barber pole worm,” although, in fact, they probably aren’t all barber pole worm. So, depending on the lab you use, you may want to check and make sure that you understand which is the category that includes the barber pole worm.

Deborah Niemann 29:54
Right, and don’t confuse “strongylids” and “strongyles” and “Strongyloides,” because they’re all different!

Anne Zajac 30:00
Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s… Yeah. Yeah, so check with the lab if there’s any uncertainty in your mind about what it is—where the barber pole worm is—because that’s really the one that you very often want to know the most about. And then coccidia are a separate category altogether.

Deborah Niemann 30:18
Right. This has been really great! And, the last one that we had talked about, I think, might be less common but more important than the others we talked about. And that is lungworm. Do you want to talk about lungworm a little bit?

Anne Zajac 30:35
So, lungworms—there are actually three species of lungworms that can infect sheep and goats. And, in fact, they’re not very important.

Deborah Niemann 30:48
Oh, okay!

Anne Zajac 30:49
They really… If you see a coughing goat, lungworm would be kind of low on the list of possibilities. It’s not impossible, but it just doesn’t seem to be a cause of disease very often. But, as I say, there are these three species, but one of them in particular is very common. Very common. This one uses a snail or slug as its intermediate host. So, the parasite comes out of the animal. It, then, is ingested by a snail or a slug, and a little larval worm forms inside that snail or slug. And then, when a goat or sheep is grazing, they either ingest the snail or slug, or they may eat larvae that are in the slime trail of these animals. And then they get infected that way. Very common parasite. And, in fact, if you were to have… Most elderly sheep or goats, if you necropsied them, you’d probably find that one worm. And, generally, no clinical signs. And it does seem, apparently, to be a little more frequent in goats than in sheep. But, unusually, you could get some respiratory disease. But, again, as I said, not a common cause of respiratory disease. And also, because Moxidectin, Ivermectin are effective drugs for these worms, over the years, as we’ve used those drugs for barber pole worm, we’ve also kind of treated the other worms as well. But, in most animals, that’s pretty common.

Anne Zajac 32:42
Now, the reason they will never… They will never be seen on a fecal exam. They are producing eggs and larvae that actually are passed out of the animal in manure, because they move up from the lungs, they move up into the oral cavity, and then they’re swallowed. And so they come out of the animal in the manure. And the diagnostic tests we do to find them, if there is a concern about lungworm disease, we use a fecal sample to look for the parasite larvae. But it’s a different test that you do. So you would have to request, specifically, that the lab looks for lungworms in a fecal sample. So, same fecal sample, but a different test.

Deborah Niemann 33:34
Right. Is that the Baermann technique?

Anne Zajac 33:36
Yes! Yes.

Deborah Niemann 33:38
Yeah. Which is looking for larvae rather than eggs.

Anne Zajac 33:41
Right. Right. Because these three different lungworm species that can live in sheep and goats, their eggs all hatch right away. Well, they’re still in the respiratory tract. So what’s getting, kind of, coughed up and swallowed, then, is larvae and not eggs.

Deborah Niemann 34:00
Yeah. That’s really fascinating to know that lungworms are actually really common but don’t cause a problem. Because, so many people will say, “My goat is coughing. I think it has lungworm.” But what you’re saying is that’s usually not…?

Anne Zajac 34:15
Usually not. More animals are infected without disease than animals infected with disease. Which even is true in most cases with barber pole worm. You know, we all know not all animals have problems with barber pole worm. It’s the same with all these parasites. You have individual situations, where numbers may be unusually high, or where a particular animal is, for some reason, more susceptible. You know, there are different factors that impact how animals respond, but most animals with lungworms do not have any disease. There’s no need to, kind of, give an animal a yearly lungworm treatment or anything like that.

Deborah Niemann 35:08
Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever had anybody tell me that they have had a goat that was even clinically diagnosed with lungworm. What you just hear all the time—everybody thinks, if their goat is coughing, it’s lungworm.

Anne Zajac 35:21
Yeah. When it’s probably more likely to be bacterial or viral.

Deborah Niemann 35:28
Mm-hmm. Well, this has been fascinating. I am really excited to broaden my knowledge of worms beyond barber pole and the common roundworms. And I hope people find this helpful and are going to be less likely to reach for the dewormer if they are aware of these things showing up in a fecal, because the bottom line is that the more you use a dewormer, the closer you’re going to get to dewormer resistance with the barber pole worm—which is the one that is gonna kill your goats, because it sucks their blood like a little vampire.

Anne Zajac 36:02
Yeah, yeah. And if I can just… I’m sure you’ve had other guests who’ve said exactly the same thing. But a great source of information on any parasite is the website of the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control, and that website is And that’s really a wonderful place to go if you want to know more about any of the worms.

Deborah Niemann 36:31
Yeah, it is wonderful. And I’ll be sure to put that in the shownotes. Because there’s so much… You could just get lost—I could get lost on there for hours reading. And, in fact, that is where I decided to ask you to come on, because you have a great article on there about tapeworms and how unimportant they are.

Anne Zajac 36:50

Deborah Niemann 36:50
And when I saw that, I was like, “Ooh, I have to get her on the show to talk about this! So that people stop treating their goats—their perfectly healthy goats—just because they see tapeworms in the manure.”

Anne Zajac 37:01
Right. If we didn’t have to worry about dewormer resistance, you could say, “Sure, if it makes you feel better, go ahead and treat.” But, you know, that’s not the world we live in. And there’s no need to deworm animals that don’t need to be dewormed.

Deborah Niemann 37:19
Yeah. Excellent. Thank you so much! That is a great note to end on. I really appreciate you joining us today to talk about this.

Anne Zajac 37:26
My pleasure.

Deborah Niemann 37:28
And, that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see shownotes, you can always visit, and you can follow us on Facebook at See you again next time! Bye for now.

Common But Unimportant Worms in Goats

2 thoughts on “Common But Unimportant Worms in Goats”

  1. New Goat Mom here. Just got back the fecal results on our three goats. Laverne is a five year old pregnant Fainting goat, Tater Tot is her 5 month old son and Lenny is the Nigerian Dwarf Daddy. They live on two acres of land with horses and chickens…and the occasional visit from our dog, Moses. Had noticed tapeworm segments from our little Tater back in October, so… upon the advice of FB and friends…dewormed with Safeguard and Quest 10/11-13 and again 10/20-22. Sent out a fecal for each on 12/4/21
    What would be your advice on treating them and their surroundings ?

    Lenny :
    TOTAL #
    Strongyle eggs counted (epg) 5
    Ostertagia and Haemonchus Barberpole *Strongyle Key: X= majority
    No Tapes
    Few Eimeria

    Laverne :
    ✓= 1 – 50 Tapes
    Few Eimeria

    TOTAL #Strongyle eggs counted (epg)1
    Ostertagia and Haemonchus Barberpole*Strongyle Key: X= majority
    ✓✓ = 50 – 150 Tapes
    Few Eimeria

    Goat Fecal Sample Results for

    Ostertagia & Haemonchus (Barberpole) epg
    Strongyloides papillosus
    Dictyocaulus viviparus lungworm
    Bankrupt worm
    Thin-neck Worm

    □ Standard ✓ = 1 – 50 ✓✓ = 50 – 150 ✓✓✓= 151 – 300
    Few (1-50) Moderate (50-200) Significant (200-1,000) Heavy (1,000-5,000) Very heavy (>5,000) Extremely Heavy (>20,000)
    *Strongyle Key: X= majority x= minority 0= none

    Thank you in advance for taking my question…any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

    • Your goats are in fantastic shape in terms of parasite load. I hope no one is recommending that you use a dewormer. As the vet in the interview said, there really is no evidence that tapeworms cause disease in goats. Another vet I know said that tapeworms are worse for the mental health of the owner than they are for the physical health of the goat. Unfortunately owners get freaked out because they can SEE tapeworms, and the poor tapeworm gets all the blame if someone SEES it in the poop and the goat is in poor shape. Then they deworm, and the goat gets better, and they assume it was because they killed the tapeworm. The reality is that they killed the roundworms — probably barber pole (haemonchus contortus) — which was what was actually making the goat sick. Contrary to what you may also see on social media, you don’t need a fecal to know what worm your goat has. ALL of the dewormers kill roundworms, which are the ones that make goats sick. So when you gave your goats Safeguard and Quest, you killed all the different types of worms in your goats.

      I do hope you listened to the podcast or read the transcript as both the vet and I talk about our experiences with VERY healthy goats that had crazy high loads of tapeworms. I also have several other episodes (and transcripts) interviewing other vets, animals scientists, and parasite researchers about parasites. Unfortunately there is a TON of old, outdated information being shared on social media about parasites, and a lot of it is just making the situation worse because there are only three classes of dewormers in the US, and when overused, they will stop working — just like when antibiotics are overused, they stop working — and then you wind up with dead goats because when they really need the dewormers, they don’t work. The reason we did this episode is so that people would STOP using dewormers with worms that don’t actually make goats sick.


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