Deer Worm in Goats

Episode 34
For The Love Of Goats

Deer Worm in Goats featured image

Meningeal worm, also known as deer worm, is a worm that is normally found in white tail deer, but goats can become infected. In this episode, Dr. Tatiana Stanton, a goat and sheep specialist with Cornell University Extension, is talking about how deer worm is different than intestinal worms that goats have, symptoms of an infection, and treatment.

Although deer worm is not nearly as common as intestinal worms, they can be much more deadly. While a goat can walk around with thousands of roundworms in its digestive tract, a single deer worm in the spinal column or brain stem can paralyze a goat and even kill it, if it is not treated. Getting treatment started as quickly as possible also plays a big role in a successful outcome.

For more information:

Deer Worm Factsheet for goat and sheep producers, Cornell University

Deer Worm Treatment Protocols, Small Ruminant Parasite Research, Cornell University

Meningeal Worm (Deer, Brain Worm) by Dr. Mary Smith, DVM, and Dr. Tatiana Stanton (PowerPoint presentation)

Tis the Season for Deer Worm by Dr. Tatiana Stanton

Listen right here…

…or on your favorite platform:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Deborah Niemann 0:18
Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode. Today I am really excited to be talking to Tatiana Luisa Stanton, the Cornell University goat and sheep extension specialist. Welcome to the show today!

Tatiana L. Stanton 0:33
Hi, good day.

Deborah Niemann 0:35
And, the topic we’re going to be talking about today is something that is near and dear to my heart. It’s something that I never even thought about or considered until it actually hit my farm. It actually affected my llamas first. We were here for quite a long time, and never had any problems with meningeal worm. I had heard about people with alpacas having trouble with that. And then, one day, we had a guard llama that was down in the pasture. We could not get her up. And I called the University of Illinois and said, “My llama is down. She’s down a hill, behind a bunch of fences, I don’t even know how to get her to you.” So they told us to use a blanket to, like, make a sling under her body to carry her to the trailer so that we could could get her in. And it ultimately turned out that she had meningeal worm. And when I got there, they told me the chances of recovery were really small. And that has a whole different meaning with meningeal worm than it does with a lot of other parasites or problems that a goat can have. And we are talking about this today because goats can get meningeal worm, too. But, I’ve been very lucky with my goats and only had two that got it. But I know some people do see this more in goats, and this is the time of year that you see it. So that’s why we’re talking about it right now. So, before I go any further: meningeal worm, you may have seen it called a bunch of different things. It’s also known as “deer worm,” “brain worm….” And Tatiana is going to tell us, like, the super-scientific name for it.

Tatiana L. Stanton 2:14
Oh no, you’re going to make me do that! Okay, so the scientific name for it—and I have to actually read it each time—is Parelaphostrongylus tenuis. And instead, most of us leave out that first part and we just use the “P,” and then say “P. tenuis.” Or, I on my own farm always call it “deer worm” or “meningeal worm.”

Deborah Niemann 2:40
Okay, and then, because this is not your typical intestinal worm that most people are dealing with, like barber pole or any of those, so can you tell us basically what is meningeal worm and how does it affect goats, sheep, and camelids?

Tatiana L. Stanton 2:56
Okay. It is a nematode, like your, you know, Haemonchus contortus and stuff, but it’s very different. Like, what shocked me is it’s a very long-lived worm. You know, they did one study where they took a white-tailed deer and put it in a cement, you know, floored building and kept him there for several years. And then, you know, they did eventually euthanize him. And they had been using him to see how often the eggs—you know, they do drop eggs and stuff. And it turned out, when they euthanized him, he had a male, one male and one female worm in him. And that was all he had. And that’s very typical to often just have a couple of worms. And the worms had lived for at least 3.7 years in him. And so, it’s very different than, you know, barber pole worm, where you’ve got lots and lots of these worms in the animals, and they’re not very long-lived, you know, they depend on the next generation. Instead, these are very few in the animal, and they don’t put out all that many eggs.

Tatiana L. Stanton 4:04
However, it is very, very different than your barber pole worm in that it has an indirect lifecycle. So it infects… The white-tailed deer is the primary host of it. And so, if you live in a part of the US or Canada where there’s white-tailed deer, you start seeing this as a problem. And as the populations get higher and higher of white-tailed deer in certain areas, you’ll see more of it. Like in the Ithaca area, about 90% of the white-tailed deer are infected with it, but it doesn’t cause any problems in them at all. And I said it was indirect lifecycle, because if your goat or your sheep goes and eats around some deer poop, it’s not going to get deer worm from that poop. Instead, a snail or a slug has to crawl over that poop. And the hatched larva—that L1, stage-one larva—penetrates the foot of that snail or slug and infects the snail or slug, and then it grows into a stage-three larva, which would be the same—an infectious larva—just the way it’s infectious for barber pole worm. It’s your stage three, but it has to have gone through that snail or slug. And now when it’s excreted into the slime trail of the slug or snail, it’s now infectious to the sheep or the goat, or the llama, or alpaca. And, unfortunately, in our area where we have lots and lots of deer and the deer are heavily infected, we actually have problems with sometimes a baby calf will get it, and sometimes even a foal will get it. But that’s basically what’s happening.

Tatiana L. Stanton 5:43
If you want I can tell you a little more. As far as what the deer actually does is it gets that L3 larva that’s on the slime trail. And we used to say… When you read some materials, they’ll tell you that the animal has to eat the slug or the snail. And I used to always wonder about that, because goats with that mobile upper lip and stuff, you know, they’re pretty picky eaters. So I’d be going, “Why are they eating these snails or slugs?” And, of course, in the fall when the leaves are down, it’s easy to do that. But what we found is actually, those larvae emerge into the slime trail. And so they just have to eat it on the vegetation. They just have… They find that slime trail on the vegetation, and eat it, and get infected that way. And you can say, “Well, you know, when it freezes, there won’t be any.” But, unfortunately, that L3 larva, we’ve done experiments at Cornell—I haven’t but the parasitology department has done one—where they put them in the refrigerator, those L3 larvae on a piece of lettuce in the refrigerator, at 39 degrees Fahrenheit for a month or even a year, and some of them have survived even up to a year. Okay? More and more of them die over that time. And then they’ve also taken leaves out of the terrarium that they keep the snails in, and they’ve taken those leaves and air-dried them with a hairdryer. And 24 hours later, even though that leaf is completely dried up, they found live larvae on the leaf. And then, what’s really horrible is they’ve taken leaves and put them in at -4 degrees Fahrenheit, and the larvae have survived for even up to a week. They found live larvae on those leaves. So it really… Once it comes out in the slime trail, it really can survive for quite a while to infect your animal. And so that’s why we actually at the Cornell Animal Diagnostic Lab, they actually see it every month of the year. But, as you said, Deborah, it’s most common in the late summer and fall and early winter.

Deborah Niemann 7:07
And then, because this isn’t just an intestinal worm in goats, so it’s not like they just eat it and it stays in their intestine. Can you explain what it does after the goat eats it, and and how it ultimately causes problems?

Tatiana L. Stanton 8:08
Right. When the goat or the white-tailed deer eats it, and it goes through the digestive tract to the true stomach, you know, the abomasum, and then it pierces the wall of the true stomach the way barber pole worms would, but instead of sucking there, it actually escapes out of the true stomach there and it goes into the peritoneal cavity or essentially goes into your abdomen. And then it finds spinal nerves, or, you know, back nerves, and it goes up those to the spinal cord and infects the gray matter of the spinal cord. And, in the case of a deer, it matures in that gray matter, doesn’t harm the spinal cord at all, and then when it’s matured enough, it progresses over to the cranium. And then in there in the brain it mates and it hatches out eggs, and the eggs go into the blood vessels and get to the lungs, and they typically hatch in the lungs. And then they are coughed up by the white-tailed deer. And when they’re coughed up, the deer swallows them immediately, and then it goes through their digestive tract and comes out in their feces. In these abnormal hosts what happens is, you know, the animal swallows that leaf, you know, eats that leaf trail, or eats that snail or slug, and it goes to the abomasum, pierces the wall, goes through into the peritoneal cavity or the abdomen, finds those spinal nerves, and goes up and gets into the spinal cord. And sometimes we’ll see one common sign of deer worm, which is not considered a very serious sign, but it’s a very common sign, is when it goes into the spinal cord there, it’ll damage some of the nerves of the skin. And the animal will feel like it has a constant itch. So it might take its hind legs and scratch at its neck, because the infection will have been there, and it’ll constantly scratch there. Or it might do it along the rib cage, just anywhere along the spine. And you’ll often see that sore—because it’s only the skin cells and a small portion under this vertebrae that have been damaged—you’ll often see that as a streak of soreness or a bare area of skin on the animal and sort of a streak down from the vertebrates. And we see that as a common sign, then, of course, it’s the same time of year, you know, in late summer when you have flies bothering your animal. So it’s hard to tell, but that can be a first sign of it. And typically, that doesn’t necessarily progress. There’s animals that get that and never get anything else. There’s animals that never get that and then get the much more serious sign of the disease and what really worries us. Because what happens is it gets into the spinal cord and gets into the gray matter of the spinal cord; it realizes, you know, “I’m not in a white-tailed deer,” but it can’t figure out how to move around in that goat or that sheep or that alpaca. And so it starts being very active, coils around itself a lot, and it causes a lot of neurological damage there. And sometimes it will make it to the brain. And then you’ll see more signs we associate with, like, goat polio, where you’ll get the twinkly eyes, or you might get some eye blindness or a head tilt. But typically, that neurological damage on the spinal cord, the common thing we see is a dragging hind leg when they first get it, or as they turn sharply, the animal might stumble and fall, or they couldn’t stand up. And luckily that damage doesn’t have to be permanent. Just because the animal is down, you wouldn’t necessarily feel that, “Oh, I’ve got to euthanize this animal.” That’s nerve damage that’s causing it. And often that nerve damage is reversible depending on how early you’ve caught it, how much damage the worm has actually done to the nerves.

Deborah Niemann 12:07
That’s one of the things that I find so fascinating about this particular parasite, is how the damage can vary so much from one animal to another, and the symptoms can vary so much. Because it ultimately wiped out all of our llamas. So, I got to see it in five different llamas, and they all were very different. And the only goats we ever had get it were two full sisters. And even they had it a little different. In fact, one of the sisters was the very first animal, actually, that had it. But I thought she had a spinal cord injury. Because we went out into the pasture one day, and she—it was first thing in the morning doing chores—she was laying in the middle of a snow-covered field first thing in the morning, which is super weird. And we tried to pick her up, and she couldn’t walk. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, somebody, like, slammed into her and broke her spine.” And so we brought her into the barn, and she just seemed like the happiest goat in the world. Like, once she was inside and warm, it was like, “Yeah, feed me, I’m fine. I’m ready to party! I can’t stand, but I feel great.”

Tatiana L. Stanton 13:21
And I think you can mix it up with a lot of other diseases. And we actually did a three-year study at Cornell, where we enrolled 15 farms that had experiences with deer worm, and we enrolled them in the study. And it was a treatment study looking at different treatments for it. But we didn’t… If their animal had a fever, the animal wasn’t enrolled in the study. Because we said, “Those symptoms are too much like listeria, and you could have listeria instead.” And, of course, in the fall, which as you said is often a typical time we see it, we get a lot of apple drops, pear drops, you have a lot of leaves on the ground. So there’s a lot of molds around, a lot of birds pooping into the leaves and stuff, so there’s a lot of chance of having listeria then. They also weren’t enrolled in the study if they just had the skin symptom. And if it didn’t have an appetite, we typically did not enroll it, because usually the thing you see with deer worm is, as you said, the animal’s very happy, you know, they’re eating well, and their temperature is normal. Because it is neurological, we do say that if you’re handling their mouth at all, or their saliva, wear gloves, just on the very rare, rare chance that it could be rabies. Okay? But really, because it can damage any nerve along that spinal cord, the symptoms can be unlimited.

Deborah Niemann 14:48
Yeah. So the llama got it next, and the llama wound up down at U of I. And then, I walk out to the barn after the llama had been at U of I for about five days, I think, and the second sister was acting like what you would think of as classic Listeriosis symptoms. She had her head twisted to the side, and her eyes were twitching, and she was, like, walking in a circle—which Listeriosis’ nickname is “circling disease.” And, at that point, I thought, “Oh my gosh.” But then I was suspicious, because I’m like, “Alright, I’ve got a llama being treated for meningeal worm, I got this, her sister, that I thought had a broken spine. So at that point, I called the university, took both goats down there, found out that both of the goats did have meningeal worm, and they started treatment on them. The one that was paralyzed did not respond to treatment at all. So they wound up putting her down, and found that she had… The worm was in her brainstem.

Tatiana L. Stanton 15:52
Yeah. And that’s one problem with the disease: It’s actually very hard to verify without killing the animal and finding the worm. The animals do often show an immune response, or attempt an immune response. And so, if you actually are lucky enough to know what the IgD antigen is like, you can do a test for that. But, you know, most of our labs can’t do that. You can also do a PCR, I think, on the feces, but the trouble is, like you said, it’s one worm. So in your sheep or goats, it doesn’t seem to ever be able to breed. So you’re not going to have any worm eggs in the feces. And then, even in white-tailed deer that have the worms, they shed those eggs very intermittently. So really, looking at the feces is no real help to you. It does make changes in the cerebral fluid, and so that was probably what the vet lab at the university did, was they checked to look for those abnormalities in the cerebral fluid that indicate deer worm.

Deborah Niemann 16:57
And it was incredible. Her sister almost had a 100% recovery, like, you know, they started treatment for her. And I’m sure it’s because they were able to start treatment so much sooner on her. Plus, it probably was not in her brainstem. So she responded really well to the treatment. And a few months later, all that… The only thing you noticed was that she held her head to the side a little bit.

Tatiana L. Stanton 17:19
And on our three-year study, what we did is, if an animal presented with a head tilt or twirly eyes, indicating that it had made it to the brain, because we couldn’t rule out that they had goat polio or sheep polio instead, we started them on thymene as well. So they weren’t qualified for the study, but we went ahead and gave them the full deer worm treatment as well. And actually, all those animals did full recoveries. So that was sort of neat. Which sort of indicated that it might… Well, it’s hard to know. Because, as I said, they got thymene as well, but we just couldn’t rule out which one it was. So sometimes you will go ahead and give them thymene, which is fine, you know, your veterinarian will probably say that’s fine to do as well.

Deborah Niemann 18:08
One of the things I wanted to add, too, because a lot of people get worried that if one of their goats has this, that they’re going to give it to the other goats. Go back to what Tatiana said at the very beginning about how it’s transmitted. And it is always transmitted through the snails or the slugs and the slime, there is no goat-to-goat transmission. So, typically when people see this, it’s one animal, maybe two if they were eating in the same area.

Tatiana L. Stanton 18:33
Yeah, I think in our study, we had, like, 5,000 goats and sheep that were exposed between the 14 farms that stayed on the study, and 39 of those—they ended up enrolling 39 animals on the study. About, you know, half of them were goats, half of them were sheep. What we did on that study—and, you know, people can talk to their veterinarian; we’re not saying that this is the way to do things. The animals got a very high dosage of Safe-Guard, or fenbendazole, because fenbendazole can pass through the blood-brain membrane. And so they got that for five days, a very high dose, way more than you would normally use for a barber pole worm or something. And then they also got dexamethasone, which is a steroid, to try and heal the nerve damage. In our case, some of these animals would be in the late stages of pregnancy. And so, if we gave them dexamethasone, it would induce labor, and we did not want to do that. So instead, those animals got Flunixamine, or flunixin meglumine. I’m sure I’m butchering it, but your veterinarian will be familiar with that. But when possible, we use dexamethasone instead, which, because it’s a steroid, it does compromise the immune system. And so, in our study, what we did is the first three days they got that at a full dose, and then the next two days they got it at a lower dose. I’ve known some veterinarians who have said, you know, “Give it at a full dose for five days, and use an antibiotic as well, because of the immune system being challenged, or just really watch the goat or sheep well to make sure they don’t get a secondary pneumonia or something.”

Tatiana L. Stanton 20:17
And that is one thing to be careful of. If the animal has become paralyzed, it may have trouble sitting on its chest floor, and it may collapse over on its side, in which case, the lung on that bottom side can fill with fluid, and the animal can get pneumonia. So you do want to prop the animal up with a hay bale or something, so that she’s sitting on her chest floor. And with goats, we’ve found that it’s sometimes helpful after the first couple of days of treatment to see if there’s a way to sling them up. And I think this is also true with sheep. They can fool themselves into thinking that “I can’t get up ever again.” And if you can sling them up after those first few days of treatment, so that they are supported up but they’re on their four feet, that is helpful to them. And it’s also helpful for their digestive tract and everything—and their lungs—to be up. So you wouldn’t do that for very long, but you would do that a couple of times a day. Obviously, if you’ve got a large flock, you’re not going to have time to do that, usually, with one animal. But if you’ve got just, you know, a smaller flock, you can do that. You know, you can be helping doing some physical therapy on the legs, you know, and stuff like that. But usually, they should be showing some improvement over those five days of treatment, if they’re going to improve. Some of them will improve really fast.

Tatiana L. Stanton 21:38
In our study, we considered them recovered if we felt they were breeding-sound at the end of the study. So, if it was a female, we felt that she could support herself enough that a male could mount her. And, if it was a male, we felt that he could support himself enough to get on his hind legs and actually mount a female. And, in our study, what was the thing we were testing out was whether ivermectin was at all helpful, because theoretically, ivermectin shouldn’t pass through that blood-brain membrane. It takes about 10 days after they’ve eaten the worm for it to get into the gray matter of the spine. And so, once it’s gotten into those spinal nerves, and it’s going to that spinal cord, the ivermectin shouldn’t really be able to be helpful. And another problem with ivermectin is we’re giving it at huge dosages. And so, when we talked to the FARAD, F-A-R-A-D, when we talked to the veterinarians there who are sort of in charge of letting you know what the withdrawal period is, they said for the amount of ivermectin we were giving, that they wanted us to not slaughter the animals for 94 days afterwards. So, you wouldn’t want to be trying that on an animal that you can still take to slaughter right now, that’s still walking fairly well, and especially if it’s going to be custom-slaughtered. At a USDA slaughterhouse they’re watching out for the neurological damage, in case it’s caused by something else. So they may not accept that animal.

Deborah Niemann 23:12
So, I know one of the things that everybody, when they hear about this, they’re like, “Well, what can I do to stop it? Can I spray something on my pasture?” Or, whatever. And there’s really… Other than just trying to keep the white-tailed deer out of your pasture, there’s really not a lot that I’m aware of that anyone can do to prevent this.

Tatiana L. Stanton 23:32
No, you couldn’t really go out there and spray something to kill snails or slugs. I have some people who say that, you know, having Guinea hens around their ponds, or ducks around their ponds, are helpful, because they eat the snails and slugs. And these are not snails that stay right at ground level. These are brush snails that up and get about two feet up in the brush. So, even having your animals out on browse isn’t, you know, doesn’t help. But we definitely did have farmers who, inadvertently, during the course of the study, got grants to do perimeter fencing that was proofed for their guardian dogs. So during the wintertime, they could let their guardian dogs loose within the whole pasture system. They found that they had a lot less white-tailed deer bedding down, because the guardian dog was such a presence and was urinating all over the place and warning things off. And then, I had other people who went from having a full-time job off the farm to being on the farm all the time, and so were working in their woodlot all the time, or out with vegetables, and so were around on the farm a lot more, and out in the fields a lot more. And they attributed their drop in the incidence of deer worm to the fact that the deer just weren’t coming on their land as much because they were so active, or their guardian dogs were so active. And I have to say, we did not have trouble with deer worm for a long time when we had a herding dog that really loved to run the, you know, she would run all over our property, do sort of a couple of great big circles to make sure there wasn’t any strange animal on there she didn’t want on there. And so she would bark at any deer she saw. And then, after she died, our other dogs were not nearly as interested in doing anything like that. And that’s when it seemed like we started having more deer worm problems. We started seeing more deer within our pastures. And, usually, the dangerous areas are the areas where the deer are bedding down. There’s a concentration of feces, and a lot more likelihood that the snails and slugs are going to pick it up.

Deborah Niemann 25:45
That’s really interesting. That is exactly what happened to us, because we had been here for 11 years. I barely even had heard of meningeal worm. And then, all of a sudden, like, within a six-month period, all five of our llamas were dead and we had two goats that had gotten it. And I was racking my brain like, “I don’t understand! Like, how did we avoid it for so many years, and now, all of a sudden, it became this huge problem pretty much overnight?” And then I realized that the previous summer was when our livestock guardian dog had died. And the dog that replaced him was very mellow about the deer. You know, it finally occurred to us that he really hated deer; you would hear him barking out there, and you’d be looking around going, “What is he barking at?” And you would see this tiny little deer on the horizon, you know, like half a mile away, but he was barking at it. And the young dog—when we realized he was getting older and probably wouldn’t be with us very long—we got a puppy. And she didn’t really care if the deer came around. She was totally fine with the deer. Like, that was the only difference that we could ever pinpoint in terms of, like, why all of a sudden we went from no problem whatsoever to having five dead llamas, a dead goat, and one goat recovering from this worm.

Tatiana L. Stanton 27:05
Right, right.

Deborah Niemann 27:07
One of the things, too, that I wanted to mention, because a lot of times people will ask me, like, they hear that alpaca breeders especially may give their animals ivermectin like once a month, because they’re trying to kill the deer worm that the llama or alpaca just ingested. Like, it’s still, you know, it’s still in the digestive system. So they’re giving it ivermectin on a monthly basis. But, I always tell people that’s really not a great idea with goats, because if you do that, like, the intestinal worms don’t know that you’re dosing them for the meningeal worm, and so, your intestinal worms are all going to be resistant to the ivermectin then.

Tatiana L. Stanton 27:47
Right. And there’s stomach intestinal worms. Remember, barber pole worm is primarily in the simple stomach and stuff. But yeah, those gastrointestinal worms are what really, usually kill off way more goats and sheep than the deer worm is going to kill off. And so, you have to realize that if you’re… And it’s typically ivermectin that they use. If you’re using that every 28 or 30 days—and remember I said it can take just 10 days for it to be ingested and go into the spinal cord area? And so really, if you wanted to be super careful, you’d be having to give it every 10 days. And while you might think that’s a good preventative, for an extremely valuable animal that might be. Or, where I have seen it used, and I haven’t scolded people about it, is in this Ithaca area we at times have had brush-clearing teams of goats that are just specifically being used for brush clearing. It happened to be… The two farms I’m thinking of, in one case, I had done a study with that farm on different dewormer resistance, and the goats they had, even though they weren’t doing much deworming, it turned out, you know, those goats had probably been purchased from someone who used ivermectin a lot. So the worms in them, the barber pole worms, were already resistant to those dewormers. And so, in that case, they went, in the late-summer/fall, I think starting around in July, they would give ivermectin once every four weeks. But that was because they were in heavy, heavy white-tailed deer areas. And I know their veterinarian repeatedly pointed it out to them, and then they would say, “Well, but we did this study at Cornell that showed our barber pole worms are already, you know, resistant to it.” And the veterinarian would say, “Well now they’re really, really, really resistant.” But being that they were in the brush, frankly barber pole worms weren’t much of a problem for them. These were really hard-working, always-in-the-brush goats.

Tatiana L. Stanton 29:50
But, except for situations like that, I really, really discourage trying to use a treatment to kill off that worm before they get any. Instead, I’ll usually say, “Try and see if you can keep deer from bedding down in your area.” If I run into someone and they’re saying, “We’re clearing off this new brush, we’re clearing out this new brush, to put our goats into,” or, “Hey, we’re using our goats to clear out this brush area, because we want to convert it to pasture,” I’ll say, “Gee, have you considered deer worm?” and “Be sure to put those goats in there under drought-like conditions or really dry conditions.” And I’ll often say that first year is when you’re going to see your deer worm problems. That first year after clearing that pasture. And so what is really important, what we found on the study, was that all the goats that got the ivermectin as well, all of them recovered—at least to be breeding-sound. That doesn’t mean they were perfectly sound, but they were breeding-sound. And then, I think, of the nine goats that got the placebo, six of those did very good recoveries. And three of them, when we got to the end of the five days, we would say to the farmer, “Do you want to do anything more?” And if the farmer wanted to do something more, they could. And what… Basically what they wanted to do is sometimes they’d want to give the dexamethasone for a day or two more. But usually, because they didn’t know if they were on the ivermectin study or on the placebo, they would say, “Oh, I want to give an injection of ivermectin.” And so, we had three animals on that study where the farmers asked to do a little bit more, versus the nine goats that have gotten the ivermectin as well as everything else, none of those farmers asked to do anything more. But essentially, all the goats did recover to be breeding-sound.

Tatiana L. Stanton 31:42
I know, my experience has been with it—I had some goats on that study—is that, while they can make it through one pregnancy, the damage will repeat itself. And they used to think, “Oh, they’ve been infected with deer worm again.” But what it really is, is that they have nerve damage. And even though you’ve treated them for them, and they’re doing well, it may be the next breeding season when the buck mounts them, or hey, someone beat them up, you know. It aggravates that nerve damage. And then, of course, being pregnant again. So what I’ve found is, usually, the animals I have that recover enough to be breeding-sound, but are still slightly off, that usually they’ll get worse and worse in succeeding pregnancies. And so they usually won’t live out as long a life, you know. I will usually cull them at some point rather than having them live out a really, really long life. You know, so you have to play it by ear and know that there was that nerve damage there, and you’ve masked it, and maybe they’ll fully recover, but maybe they won’t.

Deborah Niemann 32:42
That’s really good to know, because the one I had was young when she got it, and the one who recovered. But, if you have an animal that, you know, like, is a finished champion, or just very valuable to you for some reason, you know, she’s only four or five years old, you should realize that your time for breeding her may be shorter than normal. So, if you wanted to do that awesome breeding with her and your favorite buck, do it this year, because next year might not be so good.

Tatiana L. Stanton 33:10
Yeah. I think you have to play it by ear and see what’s kind to the animal, what’s not kind, and you don’t know what nerves have been affected, you know, where the nerve damage has been. So you have to sort of evaluate that as you see things go through.

Deborah Niemann 33:27
This has been really wonderful. I’m sure this information is going to be very helpful for people. I know the information on my website about meningeal worm is something that gets accessed a lot. Is there anything else you wanted to say about it before we wrap up?

Tatiana L. Stanton 33:42
I’ll make a plug for our website, which is the Cornell Small Ruminant Parasite Research website. And there’s a page there on research we’ve done in the past, and there’s a whole page on deer worm with lots of links, but I noticed that I have a fact sheet that’s more just for farmers and youth in general on what deer worm is, and I actually really like it. I did it before the study was completed. And because of that, I noticed it’s not on that page and, instead, it’s in the same website, but on our farmer and youth page. And so I’m going to move that one over into the deer worm page so that… But I would urge people to check out those pages. I would say talk with your veterinarian. I’m not saying “Here are the treatments to use.” But you’re welcome to take the information from our studies we did, the treatments we did, and take them to your veterinarian and have them say, “Oh, you know, I don’t really like this part, or I like this part.” And, as you said, Deborah, it’s such an individual thing between different animals. I do want to point out that the sooner you start treatment, probably the better the prognosis is.

Deborah Niemann 34:56
That is fascinating. This has been such a wonderful discussion, and lots of really great information. I really appreciate you being here. Thank you so much for joining us and sharing all this information!

Tatiana L. Stanton 35:08
Thank you, and I’m sorry that I talked so long. I’m a real talker, unfortunately.

Deborah Niemann 35:15
No, I love it! I could just… I could keep going for another hour. This is all so fascinating to me. So, thank you very much!

Deer Worm in Goats pin graphic

4 thoughts on “Deer Worm in Goats”

  1. I had no idea but it makes sense. I have my goats in an area that is thick with white tail deer. Thankfully, I’m moving them to another location, but this information will help me to prevent a lot of potential issues.
    Great guest! I love how much she had to say!
    Keep up the great work!

  2. I see where she mentions her two goats were sisters that got it,I had seen another discussion or article on meningal worm where they briefly hit on the possibility that some genetics are more resistant to deer worm then others as well,so could run in the family to be sensitive to it…I have had quite a few cases on my year I opened up into 2 new 7 acre pastures that hadn’t been fenced or utilized in decades,forage was incredible but both pastures had creeks in them,that ran through woods -so also lots of leaves..I treated probably 10 goats for meningal,out of 80(but none in any of my fields that had been in use for livestock for years)..a couple were just favoring a back leg and one just had the line in fur but with so many confirmed cases I treated them regardless..all made it except 1 doe that I blamed listeriosis for taking her but after reading this I wonder if it wasn’t more likely that the worm just made it to her brain faster..I have since always warned watch -esp for that back leg drag and to be diligent if in new areas,esp if there’s natural water(pond,creek ) and obviously if in white tail deer last note..u think for any goat that’s down for a significant time the sling 2x a day for 30 minutes or more each time makes a huge difference in the likelihood of survival

    • Hi Vanessa
      Wow – you have had quite the experience with m-worm. I’m so sorry about that.

      I’ve not seen any research on genetic resistance/susceptibility to m- worm specifically, but we do know that goats can absolutely have varying degrees of immune response to round worms in general. And it is a heritable trait, with a moderate heritability.

      On your question about getting up in a sling. Any animal that is down is going to be prone to secondary conditions, so while getting them up may not necessarily increase the likelihood of them recovering from m-worm, it will help to ward off muscle contractures, fly strike, pneumonia, etc. It also gives you an opportunity to better evaluate the animal for improvements or further decompensation.



Leave a Comment

Join me online