Goat Worms: Myths and Misunderstandings

Episode 114
For the Love of Goats

Goat Worms Myths & Misunderstandings featured image

A couple of months ago, we had a Facebook post that elicited a lot of very passionate responses and also uncovered a lot of myths and misinformation about worms in goats.

In today’s episode we are talking about many of the comments that were made on that post and explaining what current research says specifically about goat worms, which are different from worms in other species like dogs, cats, horses, pigs, and even cattle. We are joined by Dr. Michael Pesato, a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners specializing in Food Animal Practice. He most recently served as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Food Animal Medicine and Surgery at Mississippi State University.

We start by explaining what “smart deworming” means and what it does not mean, and what really causes dewormer resistance. We also talk about what fecals can and cannot tell you about the worms your goat may have.

Dr. Pesato gets into the nitty gritty of why we should never use the calendar as a tool for deworming, whether you are talking about deworming in a specific month, every X number of months, or X numbers of days after the last deworming. These are all old practices that were not based on research. We also discuss when and where eggs hatch and how larvae mature, which is not commonly known.

In addition to a thorough explanation of goat worms, we also talk about continuing education for veterinarians and why you can’t trust Google to give you the latest information on worms.

For additional information, check out our podcast episodes on Using Deworming Correctly (Episode 24) and New Guidelines for Using Dewormers in Goats (Episode 68).

For more info on parasite research:

Visit the website for the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control.

Listen right here…

…or on your favorite platform:

apple podcast player  - Goat Worm Myths and Misunderstandings google podcast player  - Goat Worm Myths and Misunderstandings spotify podcast player  - Goat Worm Myths and Misunderstandings  stitcher podcast playerListen Notes Podcast player


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 0:16
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. This topic is one that is near and dear to my heart, as we had so many goats that died from parasites 15-plus years ago when we were still getting started with our goats. And, we discovered dewormer resistance firsthand, and basically just watched Mother Nature cull our herd, because none of the dewormers worked anymore for us. And, that is actually what led me to, as I say, “accidentally” become a goat expert, because I personally wound up digging into the research and reading the studies, and by the time I learned enough to save my own goats, I had literally discovered enough to write a whole book. And so, that’s what I did.

Deborah Niemann 1:02
So, at the end of April, we had a post on Facebook that went a little viral, with some people getting really upset. And, there were a number of people who popped into the conversation mentioning a lot of myths and misunderstandings about worms and dewormers. So, I thought, who better to help us with this topic than Dr. Michael Pesato from Mississippi State University, who has been with us before? He was with us when the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control revised their dewormer chart in 2021, and multiple episodes since then. So today, we are going to talk about myths and misconceptions that are still out there, and how they’re not quite right, where they came from, and what the best practices are today. Welcome to today’s show, Dr. Pesato!

Michael Pesato 1:59
Thank you, Deborah! As always, I’m happy to be here. And, this is also a topic near and dear to my heart, especially since I think, a lot of times, myths and misunderstandings tend to dominate the ideology behind parasite control. So, I’m excited to dispel some of these myths with you today.

Deborah Niemann 2:14
Thank you so much. So, first of all, let’s start with one of the basics. You know, a lot of times we tell people to go to the Consortium’s website, because they have a lot of great information there. And, one of the things they talk about is smart deworming. So, some people do go there, and they read it, and then they use these terms online, and they don’t explain what the term means. And then, other people just kind of assume they know what it means. So, one of the things that came up in that particular conversation is, somebody said that “smart deworming means that you do a fecal to know which dewormer to use, because, if you use the wrong dewormer, you’ll wind up with dewormer resistance.” And, pretty much everything about that statement is incorrect. So, could you explain to us, like, what exactly does “smart deworming” mean?

Michael Pesato 3:04
Absolutely. So, “smart deworming” is another term for “selected deworming” or “targeted deworming.” And essentially, this is a concept that says to utilize both animal and fecal assessment when it comes to choosing to deworm. Not necessarily choosing the dewormer class or type that you’re using, but selecting the animals that should be dewormed.

Michael Pesato 3:27
So, one example for animal assessment that we use is FAMACHA scoring, which, as some of you may remember—or hopefully a lot of you know—is a chart that we use to assess the lower eyelid mucous membranes. And, essentially what we’re looking for is anemia. So, this is a Haemonchus contortus—barber’s pole worm—specific screening tool. And, that’s kind of one of the mainstays of our animal assessment. And so, essentially, you’re looking at this card, and the card typically has five different colors on it, with 1 being the best, the brightest red, and 5 being the white, the kind of ghost color, the “Oh gosh, this animal is going to die.” And, we typically say that if they’re in the kind of red and pink, we leave them alone; we do not deworm them. If we’re looking at animals that are kind of getting in that pale-whitish color, that’s when we’re going to talk about starting to maybe deworm.

Michael Pesato 4:18
Now, typically, we want to see this associated, also, with a fecal. So, for example, let’s say that we have an animal that has a really high FAMACHA score; they’re very white-colored. We may want to deworm them. But, we also want to run a fecal at the same time, and we just want to see what the egg count looks like. It’s going to give us an idea how severely parasitized this animal was, let us know that we did make the right call in that case, and then we can utilize that information later on down the line.

Michael Pesato 4:47
Now, the only thing I can think of with this comment that was made is referencing what’s called a “fecal egg count reduction test.” This still does not tell us exactly what dewormer to use. Unfortunately, I wish it was that simple. I wish there was something that was an “easy button;” you hit it, and it’s a “Yes, give Panacur. Yes, give Valbazen.” But, there isn’t, unfortunately, an “easy” button that you can hit. So, I think what this comment may have been looking at is the fecal egg count reduction test. Essentially what this is, it’s a another fecal we run two weeks after the initial deworming. And, this second fecal tells us how much that dewormer actually worked. It doesn’t tell us, of course, which one to use initially. And, I think that’s where this person maybe got lost; I’m not entirely sure. But, that’s where I think this person got lost. There is no such thing as a fecal that will tell you which dewormer to use.

Michael Pesato 5:40
So, the smart deworming is going to allow us to utilize more evidence when it comes to selecting who to deworm; it’s going to help us to avoid deworming the entire group of animals. So, we’re trying to just pick the ones that look like they absolutely need it. Another animal assessment tool that we’ll use is body condition scoring, right? So, looking at how skinny they are, right? So, there’s multiple types of animal assessment we can do that looks for signs of gastrointestinal parasitism, specifically targeting Haemonchus contortus, but also looking at the other two kind of severe nematodes that cause disease amongst small ruminants—goats and sheep specifically. But, there is no such thing as a specific vehicle that’s going to tell us, “Hey, use this class of dewormer.”

Deborah Niemann 6:32
I think where that came from is that another big myth out there is that some dewormers kill some worms, but not other worms. And, the reality is that all the dewormers kill all the worms—except for tapeworm. And tapeworm, you can see in the poop, so you don’t even need a fecal for tapeworm. And, tapeworm doesn’t make goats sick. So, if a goat is sick, like if they’re… It doesn’t make them anemic, and stuff like that. So, if your goat is anemic and has poor body condition and all of that, then it’s one of those other worms that all of the dewormers do kill.

Michael Pesato 7:06
Correct. And, I think, you know, we’ll get into this. You’re right, absolutely. All of our dewormers are labeled to kill all of those nematodes. And, where we’ve run into the problem, of course, is with resistance, which we’ll dive more into as we go through the myths.

Deborah Niemann 7:19
Yeah. And then, somebody brought up the topic of lung worms. They’re like, Oh, well, not all the worms kill lung worms. And, I’m like, “Well, that doesn’t have the same symptoms as intestinal worms.”

Michael Pesato 7:27
Exactly. That’s a totally different ballgame, just like tapeworms. I mean, it’s interesting, because I think we think “parasites,” right, and some people associate parasitism with all of the parasites, and they all cause the same thing. But it’s… Again, it’s not that simple or straightforward, right? So, as you mentioned, lung worms are a totally different ballgame. There’s very different clinical signs associated with them. Anemia is not a classic clinical sign associated with lung worms. So, we would actually not select a dewormer for lung worms based on the same criteria we selected for, you know, Haemonchus—barber’s pole worm. So, when you start adding more piles of parasites on there, it’s going to make it more and more complex and more complicated.

Deborah Niemann 8:08
Yeah. I think we’re a lot of people get confused about that is, I think that people use the terms “parasite” and “worm” interchangeably sometimes. And, if you’ve got a kid that’s, like, between 3 weeks and 5 months of age, and it’s got diarrhea and stuff, in that case, you may need a fecal to know if it’s worms or coccidia.

Michael Pesato 8:30

Deborah Niemann 8:30
Because, those are not treated with the same drugs, because coccidia are not worms. They are a parasite, but not worms.

Michael Pesato 8:36
Absolutely. I actually think that’s a fantastic way to look at it, and kind of a fantastic example, because you’re right, not all parasites are worms. And, you know, it gets very confusing when we’re not using the proper terminology. For example, I used the word “nematode.” Nematode means “worm.” I typically use “gastrointestinal nematode,” which just means “worms of the GI tract,” right? And, that way, I can kind of differentiate between the lung worm or the meningeal worm or something like another parasite that’s not a worm, like a liver fluke or a coccidia, for example. So, I think that’s a really great example of where we can get confused, because some of these parasites do not respond to the same treatment that our worms respond to.

Deborah Niemann 9:19
Exactly. So, one of the things that I think is really interesting… We say this a lot: Like, do not deworm on a schedule. And then, I’ve even had people say to me, “Oh, I don’t deworm on a schedule. I just do it twice a year.” Or, “I don’t deworm on a schedule,” but then they tell you that they will give a dewormer to a goat a week after they gave it the first dose. And, those are schedules. So, like, anything that involves the calendar is a schedule. So, can you explain why we don’t want to do anything based on the calendar?

Michael Pesato 9:56
Oh, yeah, for sure. So, when you look at deworming your small ruminants—your sheep, your goats—you really have to be careful that we’re not getting into the habit of doing what I call “blanket deworming.” So, if on your farm, you take all the goats, and you deworm everybody at the exact same time, no matter when it is, time of year, that’s going to be a negative, right? And so, when it comes to calendar-based deworming; or scheduled deworming; or “I just do it when it gets cold outside;” or “I just do it after they give birth, but I give it to everybody on the farm,” all that’s doing is helping to drive the resistance development amongst the parasite, the worm itself, the gastrointestinal nematodes.

Michael Pesato 10:40
So, the worm I’m talking about primarily is barber’s pole. Haemonchus contortus, barber’s pole worm, is the fastest parasite to develop resistance that we’ve seen so far. And, I think that that’s the one obviously causing most of the problems—most of the death loss for most farms. So, that barber’s pole worm is going to be exposed at least once, twice, three times, maybe four times—however many times a year—to that dewormer. And, every time that happens, every time you get exposure, there are more and more resistant populations that are growing. So, for example, let’s say it happens every year. By, like, the 10th year, you’re not going to have any parasites or barber’s pole worms that will respond to the dewormer. So, doing a calendar, all that’s doing is helping to push forward faster the development of resistance in the actual worms themselves—the barber’s pole worms themselves.

Michael Pesato 11:33
So, I really do not like calendar-based anything; there should never be a certain time of year that you’d deworm. You can always do FAMACHA scoring and fecals at a certain time of the year. So, let’s say you know that the transition from winter into spring is very challenging for your animals, and you always seem to have parasite problems. Well, then let’s assess them more commonly in those months. Check their FAMACHA score. Look at their body condition score. Collect fecals. Check and see if it’s coccidia, right? It could be coccidia. It could be any number of parasites that are not related to the barber’s pole worm. That is acceptable. So, planning to check your animals, pay attention to your animals, at certain times a year is acceptable. Choosing to deworm just strictly because it is that time of year is not acceptable.

Michael Pesato 12:21
And, as Deborah already brought up, and I think it’s great that she’s already touched on this: WormX.info, the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control. There is an abundance of literature that’s been published from all over the country, all over the world. We have international members that shows how things like blanket deworming, scheduled deworming practices, are leading to increased resistance development and failure of treatment of those parasites. So, stay away from the calendar. The only thing I would recommend, if you’re going to use a calendar is “Hey, I’m going to check the goats more frequently. But, I’m not going to plan to just deworm them, because that’s going to be bad news.”

Deborah Niemann 12:58
Yeah, exactly. And, I feel like it’s really easy for me to keep an eye on my milkers, because they’re on the milk stand every day. And, it’s just a habit for me that, like, I close the head gate, and I run my hand down their spine. So, like, I’m doing a body check on my does twice a day. And, if they start to feel thin, then I’m like, you know, their head is already locked into the stanchion, and I just go pull down the eyelids and see how the eyes look.

Michael Pesato 13:23
Exactly. Well, and I think that’s a good point. You know, if you have a pet goat at home, or herd of pet goats, and you brush them… I’ve had clients who brush their goats every day. That’s a great time for you to put your hands on them, get them used to the FAMACHA score. If you don’t, that’s okay. If you’ve got, let’s say, goats that are out browsing most of the time, or that keep up yards or do landscaping jobs, run them in and check them out during peak season of parasites, which we’re going to say… Depending on where you are in the country, it can vary. But, basically, it’s when we start getting into the summer months. So, I’d say April, May, depending on where you are, all the way into October, November, depending on where you are. Make sure you just run them in and check them as frequently as you can—once a week if you can, right? If you can’t, then once every two weeks. At least just lay eyes on them. As Deborah said, lay hands on them. That’s really important. Your goats can get fluffy, right? So, after that winter time, put your hands on these animals.

Michael Pesato 14:17
Just saying, “Okay, well, it’s April. Time to deworm!” That is a really bad practice. And, what I’ll tell you is that, yes, that used to happen. That used to be completely acceptable. If we go back to when his dewormers first hit the market, it was encouraged. So, if you’re following your parents, your grandparents, whatever they used to do, unfortunately, that is now something that has evolved beyond giving regularly like that. So, science changes all the time. And, with barber’s pole worm, because of its ability to develop resistance, we’ve seen a change from what was recommended 20 years ago—maybe 30 years ago—to what we recommend now. And, I think that’s what’s important to remember, because I know that some of you out there who post some of this stuff, you’re coming from a place where you did learn this stuff, but it might be outdated. And so, it’s important to stay up-to-date. And, I think Deborah does a great job in her podcast keeping guys up-to-date, and recommending resources of value to keep you up-to-date, and not just following what dad and mom or granddaddy or grandma did back in the day.

Deborah Niemann 15:23
Yeah. I love it. Susan Schoenian was on here one time and talked about how, back in the 80s, when she got started, about how they used to deworm every single animal and, you know, if it was your turn to deworm, and you missed an animal, you had to buy lunch for everybody. So, like, that was just—

Michael Pesato 15:40
It’s legit.

Deborah Niemann 15:40
—best practice 30 years ago.

Michael Pesato 15:41
Yeah. Oh, absolutely. And, I think Susan— I love Susan. She’s a fantastic resource, you know, and I am glad that she shared that story. Because, some of you out there, that’s what you were taught to do. And, I understand that. You know, we’re not trying to demonize you or make fun of you, you know? We want you to understand that things have changed. Things have progressed. And, unfortunately, we’re literally fighting a battle against barber’s pole worm, and we’re losing. Because of these old-school practices, we’re losing. So, Deborah and I today, we’re trying to dispel these myths so that we kind of have an upper hand in this battle, and we kind of teach you guys that the old practices may not just be as reliable anymore.

Deborah Niemann 15:41
One of the things that is really frustrating is that sometimes people will send me a link to somebody’s website who’s, like, in Colorado, or Arizona, or the mountains of California, and they talk about how they deworm their goats on a schedule, and they do all of the things. I’m not even going to list them all. But, they do all of the things that were very common 20 or 30 years ago, and they say, “We’ve been doing this for 20 or 30 years, and this works.” And it’s like, “No, you’ve actually been wasting your money for 20 or 30 years, because where you live, nobody has a problem with barber’s pole worms.” Because, you’re either in a drought state, or you’re in the desert, or you’re in the mountains and your goats are eating browse all day long. They’re not in the rainy parts of the country, where the goats are forced to be grazers, and, as I say, “eating from their toilet.”

Michael Pesato 17:10
Yeah. Oh! And, I think it’s great that you bring that up. Because, the reality of this country is that we have so many different kinds of climates; we have different geographic entities that make our environment very different. So, if you’re in Pennsylvania, or Maryland, or Mississippi, you probably shouldn’t be looking at a website for someone that’s in Colorado, or someone that’s in Arizona, or California, or Nevada. Keep in mind that these different places where people are doing this, it may look nothing like your farm. And, trying to follow those recommendations, it’s going to be a disservice to you. And, I agree they’re wasting their money.

Michael Pesato 17:50
And honestly, they don’t even know, like you said, if those dewormers have done anything, or if it’s just the fact they don’t have the parasites. You know, and these dewormers, they’re not cheap. If you’re doing this often, they get very expensive, you know? I mean, we’re looking at pushing into, for some of the “really good”—what people think are “good”—dewormers, we’re looking at pushing into over $100 for a bottle. That starts to eat into your production costs, or just whatever small-scale spending money that you have. It starts to eat into that. So, it’s important to remember that and know your sources.

Deborah Niemann 18:23
Yeah, exactly. And, I’ve had people contact me more than once, who lived in one of those places and then moved to the East Coast, and within months, they have goats dying from worms. And, they contacted me to say, “I don’t understand why I have goats dying from worms. I’ve been raising goats for 10 years or 15 years; I’ve never lost a goat. We just moved to, you know, South Carolina”—or whatever. “From Northern California.” And, it’s like, “Okay, that’s why you’ve got animals dying from worms now.”

Michael Pesato 18:51

Deborah Niemann 18:52
“Because you are in worm central.”

Michael Pesato 18:54
Yeah. Well, and my students told me once that I was flexing on somebody, because I was talking to somebody, and they were telling me—it was a producer. And, they were telling me, you know, “I’ve had goats. I’ve raised goats for 30 years.” And, you know, I told them, I said, “Look, I understand that you have raised goats for 30 years, but you’ve raised goats on this one property for 30 years. I have practiced in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Mississippi, and Alabama. I’ve seen thousands of goat farms across the, kind of, East Coast. And, I can tell you right now that, you know, your one-farm experience is not the normal experience of all of the other farms around you.”

Michael Pesato 19:32
So, it’s important to remember that just because something works really well for that one person doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for your farm, and that you should follow it verbatim. You know, you should try and look at what your animals look like, how many you have, where you’re located, what they’re eating, other health issues you’ve had in the past… All these things relate to, potentially, what your parasite load is gonna look like. So, it’s really important not to get lulled into this false sense of security of like, “Well, So-and-So has been doing it for 20 years.” Yeah, but they’ve been doing it in this isolated little vacuum, you’re not in their vacuum. You know, be careful, because that can be very detrimental to your goats and your production model—or pets, or whatever you’re into—to follow somebody who’s not the same as you.

Deborah Niemann 20:18
Yeah. And, somebody else I knew had a farm in Tennessee that was covered with lespedeza. And luckily, she knew that. You know, she was like, you know, “I’m so excited! My farm is covered with lespedeza! I have no parasite problems!” But, if she didn’t know that, you know, and she was giving her goats a dewormer on a regular basis, she might just think, “Oh, my goats are doing good because I’m giving them this dewormer,” when in reality, it’s because she’s got, like, the world’s best natural dewormer growing all over her farm.

Michael Pesato 20:45
Exactly. Exactly. And, I think that’s the other thing. You know, that’s what always blows me away a little bit, people being like, “Well, one plus one equals two,” you know? And, “This is exactly why this happened,” when we actually don’t know, right? We don’t have any evidence. It’s all anecdotal. It’s all kind of, like, whatever story you wanted to tell, right? But, there’s no evidence to back up a claim like that. So, I think some of those sites, some of those postings, can be overconfident. And, as you know, Deborah, it’s a lot of responsibility when you’re talking to the country, or to the world, and to make a blanket statement like that can be very dangerous, especially for those who are just trying to find an answer. They’re just trying to find the right answer.

Deborah Niemann 21:26
Yeah. And, that’s why, like I said, you know, like, that’s why I think it’s just so important for people to understand the research and to know the “why.” Because otherwise, you look at these different farms, doing different things, and it’s just super confusing. You’re like… Because, sometimes people don’t know why they don’t have a problem, just like people who have a problem don’t know why they have the problem.

Michael Pesato 21:47
Exactly. Exactly.

Deborah Niemann 21:49
One of the things that I discovered is still really, really popular when I made that post, is that a lot of people think that you really have to do a second deworming after the first deworming. And, Tammy Gallagher, who also helps me answer questions on there, she is also a certified FAMACHA instructor, like I am. And, we kept saying, “Unless you have dewormer resistance on your farm, a single dose of the dewormers at the correct dosage is sufficient to take care of whatever worm load your goat has.” And, so many people got really upset about that, with all sorts of different comments and assumptions and stuff, and saying, you know, “Show me the study that shows that you should only do it once.” And it’s like, “Well, there’s not a study that says you should only do it once.” It’s about your overall parasite management program, and the fact that you don’t need a second deworming.

Deborah Niemann 22:50
And, this is why I don’t like the idea, even when people say like, “Oh, give them a dewormer and wait 10 days to do a fecal.” It’s like, if an animal is really parasitized, and you give them a dewormer, like, you need to put them in the barn, off of the pasture that’s covered with larvae, and be checking them every single day, and make sure that they are improving. Because, if you just think, “Oh, in a week or two, I’m going to repeat a dewormer or do a fecal,” or something like that, they can be dead long before that. So, can you talk about why it’s not recommended to do a second deworming routinely?

Michael Pesato 23:28
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So, this is a really great point. And, I’ve had a lot of clients telling me that this is what they were doing. And, you and I were having a little discussion about this, because I always find it interesting just looking at what arbitrary day gets thrown out. So, you know, 7 days, 10 days, 2 weeks… You know, some people like to do it every 21 days. And, the reality is that if I had a bunch of these barber’s pole worms that were there and susceptible to the dewormer, and I gave them the initial dose of dewormer, and I killed off, let’s say, 85% of them. Well, those are the only worms that are going to respond. That’s it. So, if I waited, and I gave another dose in 7 days, the ones that were still alive from that initial deworming are not going to die.

Michael Pesato 24:11
And, I know a lot of people say, “Oh, well, the larvae. The larvae that have matured, they’re going to die then.” Well, there’s different stages all throughout the timeframe going on. We don’t know. It’s not like, “Oh, there’s one wave of adults, and now here’s another larval wave of adults coming in.” So, that second deworming dose, actually, there may not be a large number of larval maturation that happened in that 7 days, or there may be no larval maturation that happened in that 7 days. You don’t know, right? There’s no evidence out there that shows that there is a benefit to giving that second follow-up dose at an arbitrary date. So, what you’re doing is saying, “Okay, resistant parasites, here comes another wave of dewormer for you to enjoy.” And, by the way, there might be a couple more adults that are probably resistant as well, so, “You enjoy that as well.” And, we end up creating more of that resistance.

Michael Pesato 25:05
Now, I will say there’s one thing—and I want to just talk about this briefly. So, when we look at the white wormers—the Valbazen, the Panacur, the Safe-Guard—I had a few people that were telling me that they were giving those dewormers once a day for 3 days in a row. And, I was like, “I’ve heard this so many times. I’m going to ask one of our, kind of, renowned parasitologists, Dr. Ray Kaplan”—give a shout out to Dr. Ray Kaplan. “I’m going to ask him if he thinks that that’s something that people should be doing, because I’ve heard it from multiple sources.” And, Dr. Kaplan actually wrote back and said, “The resistance development to the fenbendazole and albendazole”—which is the Panacur, Safe-Guard—”and the Valbazen is so severe that sometimes giving three days in a row has more efficacy than changing the dose amount or giving it over long periods of time.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s really interesting.” He said, “But, that all depends on the resistance on the farm and how severe it is.”

Michael Pesato 26:03
So, I still do not go out recommending that we do multi-day therapy. I definitely do not recommend multi-day therapy for any dewormer that is outside of that first class—the white wormer class. That includes, you know, your moxidectin or cydectin, which is one of the “stronger” dewormers—your Prohibit or levamisole. One of the stronger dewormers. All you’re doing is driving that resistance to develop a heck of a lot faster. And honestly, you’re wasting your money. People have done the 21-day—so the “prepatent period.” That’s a scientific term for the time it takes for the barber’s pole worm to become an adult and cause clinical signs. So, it’s the time, basically, from when it enters the body to when it develops from a larva to the adult to cause the anemia, to cause the weight loss.

Michael Pesato 26:54
Now, some people have said, “Oh, well then, I’ll deworm every 21 days.” Well, that’s kind of ludicrous, right? You’re never going to catch every single one. So, it’s almost like trying to, you know, put sand into a net and hope that it stays. It’s just not going to happen. So, it’s a slippery slope. And, as Deborah said, there are studies out there looking at a ton of different dewormers in different parts of the country that look at the resistance patterns on different farms, that look at giving, you know, one dose versus multi-dose. This is all a library of literature that has come together to formulate what Deborah and I have talked about this entire talk, about smart deworming, about proper use of anthelmintics or dewormers. This library of knowledge is pretty much all available on WormX.info. It’s unfortunately not just, like, a quick Google, come-up-with-your-best-article situation. It may take a little bit of digging to find your exact pinpoint article, but I can almost guarantee you that there has been some studies that look into this and that support the evidence that we’re talking about today.

Deborah Niemann 28:03
So, the other thing, too—I don’t know if we said this, actually—is that some people used to say… I don’t hear it as much. I do still hear it occasionally, that that second deworming kills the eggs that hatched inside the goat since the first deworming. And, that’s, like, not relevant at all. Because, eggs hatch on the pasture.

Michael Pesato 28:21
Correct. Exactly. In the barber’s pole, the eggs are hatching in the pasture; the larvae are already at a certain maturation stage when they enter into the host. And then, like I said, it’s tough to say where they are at the time you gave that dewormer. Again, it’s like putting sand in the net. You’re trying to figure out, “When am I going to deworm to catch the most that I possibly…?” Well, it’s not going to happen. They’re just all over the place all the time. They’re in the animal developing, and there are potentially thousands of them in the animal developing. So, it’s like chasing your tail to do this, to pick an arbitrary number and give a second dose.

Deborah Niemann 28:59
Yeah. I think I used to hear some numbers, so I think people had the idea that there was a number—and I don’t think it was based on research. I think it was just an assumption that people made, you know, like, “Oh, those larvae are gonna mature in 7 days,” or “The eggs will hatch in 7 days,” or 10 days, or 14 days, or whatever. And, the reality is, we don’t know, because larvae can be in that arrested stage for months.

Michael Pesato 29:23
Exactly. Exactly. And, that’s the thing. You know, we’re not even talking about larvae that are overwintering. You know, there’s so many parts to this story, that if it was as simple as “to give a second dose in a certain amount of days,” we wouldn’t be dealing with these problems.

Deborah Niemann 29:39
Yeah, exactly. So, one of the things that somebody said—which, she linked to a 2006 PDF from Purdue University. Which, I want to talk about Google at some point today, because Google is not our friend here. And, Google still sends people to these old, old articles. And so, I read through the article, and I think she misunderstood some stuff that she read there. But, she said that there are inhibited worms that are burrowed into the tissue of the digestive system, and they come out, and that that second deworming is going to kill them.

Michael Pesato 30:18
Yes. So, we’re starting to confuse another parasite. So, it is a gastrointestinal nematode. It is a worm. However, it is not Haemonchus contortus. It’s not barber’s pole. It’s actually a parasite called Ostertagia or Teladorsagia. And this is a parasite that, in cattle, is very, very classic for… It actually goes into the gastric glands in the abomasum, which is the kind of true stomach of the cow. And, it can come out normally during a season that is, weatherwise, better for the parasite. We do see Teladorsagia, which is the name of it, in small ruminants, but not to the pathogenic extent that we see it in cattle.

Michael Pesato 30:58
So, if we’re talking about these, you know, insistent worms, and them coming out, there actually wouldn’t be a good way to tell how many days it would take for that to happen, especially because depending on where you are in the country depends on when those worms come out. So, for example, if you’re in the South, it’s actually more comfortable in the fall for those parasites, because they like it cooler; unlike barber’s pole, which loves it hot. If you’re in the North, they come out more in the summertime, because in the winter, it’s too cold.

Michael Pesato 31:28
So, I already feel like I’m getting deeper, right, than where we need to be, which is the reality of it, that that article is talking about a totally different parasite than barber’s pole, than what we’re mainly concerned about. Not to say that Teladorsagia does not cause some clinical signs. But, I would go ahead and say that we’re primarily concerned with the Haemonchus or barber’s pole worm, and that that article was not discussing that parasite going into what we call “hypobiotic state,” because it’s not as common with a barber’s pole worm.

Deborah Niemann 32:03
Yeah. There were a few things I read in there that I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah, this definitely are 2008,” because it talks about larvae crawling up on the grass.

Michael Pesato 32:12

Deborah Niemann 32:12
And, I’m like, “Yeah, larvae can’t crawl.”

Michael Pesato 32:15
Yeah. And, that’s the thing. You know, Google is funny. And, I know Deborah and I were talking a little about this, too. Google is funny, because I think you could find evidence to support whatever you want on Google, honestly. You could say that the sky is green and find something, some post somewhere on the internet, probably backed by maybe something legit, that says, “Yes, the sky is green until you see it with your eyes, and then it’s blue,” you know? Or, something weird like that. Some loophole. So, be very careful with the literature you’re reading. Make sure that, One, it’s come from a reliable source—which, Purdue is a reliable source. You know, that’s tricky. But, Two, make sure that it’s not from more than 10 years ago, right? I mean, 10 years is even pushing it, to be honest. In parasite control in small ruminants, the kind of more updated research, probably, is going to come from the last 5 to 7 years. So, if you’re seeing something from the early 2000s, I would double-check your resource and make sure that that’s not outdated information.

Deborah Niemann 33:11
Yeah. And, a lot of people don’t realize that they need to look for a date when they find something, because Google is dumb. It’s just an algorithm, you know? It’s like, “Oh, millions of people have gone to this page, so it must be good.” And so, they keep sending people to these really old pages that have been out there for, like, 15 years, because people go there, and then they spend a long time there. It’s like, if somebody goes to a page, and then they click off within 10 or 20 seconds, Google does not see that as a reliable page. But, if somebody is looking for parasite information, and they see, “Oh, Purdue,” they stay there, and they don’t realize that page just got lost on the website. Like, Purdue is not linking to it from any of their pages.

Michael Pesato 33:58

Deborah Niemann 33:58
They just forgot about it.

Michael Pesato 34:00
Exactly. Well, and I think, you know, one thing that’s important remember, too, about Google is that, sometimes, keep an eye out. If it says “sponsored,” that source paid for it to be at the top. So, be careful clicking on any kind of sponsored pages. You may find this, you know, with certain businesses, for example, that are trying to get you to come and check out what products they have, that they may also post information. They’re kind of putting a little bit of money out there so that they can be at the top of your list when you Google it.

Michael Pesato 34:27
The other thing to keep in mind, you know, is I think it’s a great point that Deborah brought up that things can get lost. So, with the Consortium, we’re actually right now in the process of going through our own library and updating. Literally, we just talked about this at our most recent meeting. Our goal is to go through all of our literature, read it for accuracy, and edit it as needed, with the edits reposted for that article. Because, we’ve realized that the Consortium has been around for a long time now, and there’s a lot of information out there that has changed. And so, I think it’s important that you just pay attention. You know, you could find the original published date, but make sure it says “edited” or “reviewed” or “examined” or something by a hopefully reliable source in the last decade.

Deborah Niemann 35:13
Yeah, exactly. I wouldn’t want to go to the doctor and have them treating me with information that was current 20 years ago.

Michael Pesato 35:20
I know. Exactly. Science evolves all the time. We have to keep that in mind.

Deborah Niemann 35:25
Yeah. Speaking of that, you know, everybody talks about how hard it is to find a vet who treats goats, who knows goats and stuff. And, I always tell people, “Please do not try to convince your dog and cat vet to see your goats.” Because as a very brave vet said to me, you know, like, 18 years ago or so, she said, “I would not be doing you any favors by seeing your goats.” And, after seeing some of the things that, you know, small animal vets have said to people about their goats, I’m like, “She was right.” And, I really respect her. I was not happy at the time. But now, like, I really respect the fact that she said, “I’m not a goat vet.”

Michael Pesato 36:02

Deborah Niemann 36:03
So, can we talk a little bit about continuing education for vets? Because, so many people think like, “Oh, if my vet said this, it absolutely has to be right.” Especially if the vet has, like, been practicing for 20 or 30 years. Like, “They really know.” Kind of like somebody who has been raising goats for 20 or 30 years. “They must really know.”

Michael Pesato 36:19

Deborah Niemann 36:19
So, can you talk a little bit about continuing education?

Michael Pesato 36:22
Oh, yeah, for sure. So, this is a nice topic, because obviously, as a veterinarian, this is something that I have to go through every year. So, continuing education. It’s required for veterinarians to maintain their veterinary license. And, I first off have to say, I commend your veterinarian for her honesty. I think that, really, that’s a sign of a good veterinarian, to be honest about where they feel their skills lie, right? My goal as a veterinarian teacher is to try and provide my students—but also my colleagues—with as much information as I possibly can concerning small ruminants.

Michael Pesato 36:57
There are so many different types of veterinarians in the world. And, there are so many different things that you can go learn about when you’re at a continuing education event, or a conference, or even just a local meeting. And, what’s going to happen is that you’re going to select something to learn about that’s kind of primarily lying in your area of interest, your area of expertise, what you see all the time, right? So, for a 100% small animal veterinarian, they’re going to focus on learning more about small animal practices. The food animal veterinarians, like myself, we’re going to go to things about goats and sheep and cattle and pigs and try to gain more information from those species.

Michael Pesato 37:38
Now, one thing I will say—this is kind of an ever-growing concept in vet med. We’re finding that, as Deborah mentioned, it’s hard to find a small ruminant veterinarian. And, there are a lot of students that are going through vet school right now that are extremely interested in small ruminants, that want to practice with small ruminants. I’m a firm believer that small ruminants can be brought to any practice. So, as a veterinarian, you can get a few simple tools for your trade, have some knowledge kind of in your background, and apply this to whatever practice you’re in—whether it’s small animal, equine, dairy, whatever you’re doing—and offer quality, small ruminant medicine and surgery for your clients. The key though, is quality. Because, just going out there and saying, “Oh, I dabble in sheep and goats. Yes, deworm this whole herd,” is a bad idea, right?

Michael Pesato 38:26
So, I will say that I’m doing a talk, actually, at the American Veterinary Medical Association this year that is how to bring small ruminants to your small animal practice. So, I’m just going to talk about some of the highlights of that. Some of the basic things that those people need. Talk about FAMACHA scoring and running a McMasters slide when looking for eggs, not just a fecal flotation. You know, talk about some of the things that are, to me, the backbone of small ruminant practice that, even if you’re small animal person, if you do a few simple things, you’re going to at least be able to provide triage services to somebody who’s in need, right, until maybe you could have another veterinarian that’s more comfortable with it, or you can at least talk to a colleague.

Michael Pesato 39:07
But, it’s important to remember that, just like those producers that have done it for 20 years, if a veterinarian is not continuing to evolve their knowledge, and they’re really focusing on what they learned in vet school, it’s probably not going to be accurate for what they can provide for you. Because, vet school is amazing. It was a lot of fun. I learned a ton. But, I will say that goats in particular are not a main species that we learned about in vet school. They’re just not. Different programs have different kind of focus. And, we as veterinarians, a member of the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, it’s one of my kind of passion organizations. We are working very hard to push for education about goats and sheep while students are going through school, and then continuing to provide them with educational opportunities to our organization, so they can not feel that they don’t know what they’re doing at all.

Michael Pesato 40:00
But, if your veterinarian is recommending something that just does not align with what you’ve heard here from me, from other guests that Deborah’s had that are PhDs, or Deborah, who wrote the book and did all the research, then you probably want to just, you know, consider that maybe it’s an outdated practice. Or, maybe you should ask your veterinarian. What I would rather you do is have a frank conversation with them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Personally, I love when people ask me questions. If you say, “Hey, look, this is what I read—” I know, we all hate sometimes “this is what I read online,” but it’s a reality. Like, you should have that concern for your animal. And, if it sounds odd, then ask them. And, if you’re uncomfortable with the answer they gave you, well, then you don’t have to necessarily follow. You can find another veterinarian. You can find, you know, another second opinion. You can go to your local veterinary school, or call your local veterinary school, and ask for advice.

Michael Pesato 40:58
And, I’m by no means saying “do not utilize your local veterinarians.” Local veterinarians are there for you. As a profession, we’re trying to serve you in a broader way. And, I will say, I think the current and coming generation of veterinarians want to serve you and do it the right way. And, I know that for a fact, because I’ve had students, still, that text me after they graduate, and we talk on the phone; we text back and forth about their goat case they’re looking at, what they’re doing for that case. So, you know, I think it is challenging sometimes to find someone who is an expert at small ruminants. Be patient with the people that are trying to provide you with services or help. And, don’t be afraid to ask questions, because that’s part of our job, is to answer those questions for you.

Deborah Niemann 41:41
Yeah, exactly. Thanks so much for that. That was really interesting.

Michael Pesato 41:45
Yeah, like I said, from a veterinary perspective, my colleagues that are out there trying to provide small ruminant practice options, I think, are 100%, trying to do the absolute best they can. And, if they’re willing to look at the animal and try to practice the best medicine, I think that, you know, it’s good to develop that relationship where you work hand-in-hand with that veterinarian. Because, I know that I learn a lot from my producers, my clients. You know, they teach me a lot, you know, about their animals that maybe I didn’t know or recognize.

Michael Pesato 42:12
And so, you know, have a little patience, especially if it’s somebody saying, “I love goats, I want to work on goats. I want to be the best veterinarian you can possibly have.” They will do the legwork to find the information for you. So, have patience with those people. Trust the veterinarians that say, “I don’t want to do this,” because they also have the foresight to understand that that’s something they’re not necessarily interested in or feel comfortable doing. And, that’s fine. That’s not a problem. But, I think what I have gained from working with students is that, if they want to do it, even if they don’t do it all the time, they’re gonna do it. And, they’re gonna do it well, because they want to provide that service, and they want to have you come back, right? So, have some patience, especially with some of your newer graduates out there. I know there are a lot of bright young minds coming into the field every year, and a lot of them are just really interested in giving you the service that maybe you’ve lacked in your area.

Deborah Niemann 43:05
Yeah, exactly. I know, I’ve heard some really great stories from people. You know, like, somebody in Canada who was in a very remote area, and she said that the only vet in her area said, “Well, I used to see a couple goats a few years ago, but I’ll do what I can to help you.”

Michael Pesato 43:21

Deborah Niemann 43:22
You know, I love it when I hear that they’re being completely honest that, you know, this is not their strong point, but they’re willing to do what they can and learn as much as they can.

Deborah Niemann 43:33
One of the things that I just noticed in my notes here is that some people were talking about not just doing one repeat deworming, but like, deworm every week for 3 weeks. Or, there was even one person who posted a list of dates, that she had had this goat that had a really bad case of worms, and she was giving her, like… I think she gave her every dewormer that is on the market, and it was almost every day for 3 weeks. And, I’d never seen that before. And, she insisted that she did that on the advice of her vet. And it’s like, that’s just not going to help a goat, right? Like…

Michael Pesato 44:11
Oh, yeah. And, you know… So, in this talk that I’m going to do at this American Veterinary Medical Association, one of the things that I’m going to try to really stress is that goats are not dogs, cats, small cattle, horses—right? So, there’s some practices we do in other species that are the antithesis of what we want to do in goats, right? It’s the kind of anti-everything we are taught, that we’ve talked about this whole time.

Michael Pesato 44:38
So hopefully, I really want a lot of my small animal colleagues out there who want to provide the best service to hear that and know that rotating dewormers, giving multiple days worth of three or four different types of dewormers, giving it every couple of weeks for two months, all of that is really, really not good practice. And, it is actually the opposite of good practice; it’s bad practice. And, you’re going to drive that farm’s resistance. That animal may survive. And that, sometimes, I think, for some people—both veterinarians and clients and producers—are like, “That is a win.” But, that’s a short-term win, right? You’ve got to think of your long game here. That goat survived. But next year, the year after, year after, are all of the goats going to survive? Or, are we going to end up in a situation like you had, Deborah, when you, like, 5 or 6 years ago—or, well, it was longer than that. It was when you first started that you lost all of your goats due to the fact that nothing worked.

Michael Pesato 45:38
And, I’ve seen it happening now. It’s happening right now. I’ve had farms where, literally, they’re losing their goats, because nothing is working. And, it’s hard for me as a vet to say, “I can’t do anything for you. I’m sorry. All I can do is a blood transfusion.” And, even that, all I’m doing is giving you a blood transfusion saying, “Go back out and feed the worms. Here’s some fresh blood.” We’re spiraling down a road that is not a good place to go, because of practices like that. So please, please do not do that. And veterinarians, I hope—if there’s any veterinarians listening to this that are doing that—please stop recommending that. It is bad practice. Visit WormX.info. There are lots of good resources there for veterinarians as well, because veterinarians also serve on that Consortium.

Deborah Niemann 46:24
That is really interesting to know that that’s something that is done and considered good practice with small animals. Because, that was one of the comments somebody said, is like, “Well, it just makes sense that if this works with dogs and cats, that it would work with goats.” And, I don’t know much about dogs and cats and that kind of stuff. You know, like, I’m just your typical dog and cat owner.

Michael Pesato 46:46

Deborah Niemann 46:46
So, I didn’t know when she said that that like, oh, that really is a common practice with dogs and cats. And, it works for them.

Michael Pesato 46:53
Yeah. You know, I mean… No. It’s totally different. You know, dogs and cats, it’s not uncommon to have an annual deworm. It’s not uncommon to give a dewormer, it comes back, you run a fecal, and you’re like, “Oh, it didn’t work. Let’s give another dewormer.” You know, that’s not uncommon for horses. It’s not uncommon do multiple times a year deworming. So, scheduled deworming is a part of animal husbandry, if you will, for multiple species, but it is not for goats. Absolutely not.

Deborah Niemann 47:19
That is great. I’m so glad you said that. That is really good to know.

Michael Pesato 47:23
Oh, yeah. Yeah. And, you know, there’s a lot of extrapolation that can be done between species, but that is not one of them. The barber’s pole worm is unique to goats and sheep. And, that is where the problem lies. The barber’s pole worm is mutating and developing this resistance gene much faster than any other parasite.

Michael Pesato 47:23
Yeah, that is great. That’s probably one of the best tips we’ve had in this whole episode.

Michael Pesato 47:47

Deborah Niemann 47:48
So, is there anything else that you’ve heard that you want to mention?

Michael Pesato 47:51
You know, I think we’ve covered, really, a lot of the big myths. One of the things I just, again, want to kind of stress is: Take all advice with a grain of salt. You know, it’s really easy to listen to somebody—and I’ve had multiple clients tell me, you know, they have a goat person that they talk to. You know, “Oh, they’ve been doing it for 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years.” You know, and “This is what they do.” And, they don’t want to hear from anybody that that’s wrong, you know? And, it’s like, “Well, if somebody is that set in their ways, I probably would take their advice with a grain of salt.”

Michael Pesato 48:24
So, science is ever-changing. And, deworming practices are science. That’s what it is. It’s a medicine, right? So, keep in mind that just because someone is giving you advice… Be polite about it, say thanks so much, but do your research. Do your own research. The fact that you’re listening to this podcast is great. I’m so happy that you tuned into this. And, you know, I’m happy that people left those comments, because I think it gave us a really great topic to discuss. And, I have heard— I’m not even lying to you. Even before Deborah told me about these posts, I’ve heard every single one of those myths with my own ears. So, this is something that is, you know, inundated the market. It’s not uncommon across the nation to hear these things. And, it’s our job as, you know, responsible goat producers, veterinarians, animal scientists, PhDs… It’s our job to try and teach you guys with the most up-to-date information, and the most relevant, and hopefully the most reliable.

Michael Pesato 49:28
So, just one more shameless plug: Visit the Consortium’s website at WormX.info. I know Deborah will have that in her show notes and have everything there for you guys, as she always does. But, that website is fantastic. And, as someone who serves on the Consortium myself, I can tell you that it is a great group of people that is constantly cranking out research and knowledge pertaining to barber’s pole worm and beyond, more parasites other than that, so check it out. You know, continue to follow Deborah. I love that she does these podcasts, and that she invites people that, you know, are experts in their field. And, small ruminant parasitism is something that I’m very passionate about. Hopefully, you gleaned that from this discussion. And, you know, as always, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, hysteria, you know how to get ahold of me, and you know how to get ahold of Deborah. So, thank you again for having me on the show.

Deborah Niemann 50:21
Oh, yeah! Thanks so much for joining us today.

Deborah Niemann 50:24
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 show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!

Goat Worms Myths & Misunderstandings

2 thoughts on “Goat Worms: Myths and Misunderstandings”

  1. I’m a new goat owner and this information was invaluable to me. I do have a question, however. Lespedeza was mentioned during the podcast as the best natural dewormer. Is there some protocol for feeding pellets to goats (specifically Nigerian Dwarf in my case) as a preventative or as a dewormer given at any special time? If so, what is the typical feeding or dosage? I do not want to introduce this legume to my property, but I see there are pellets produced by Sims Brothers available.


Leave a Comment

Join me online