Over the past dozen growing seasons on our farm in Illinois, I’ve come to truly appreciate the first few freezes in the fall because I know it means that problems with internal parasites in our animals will soon be winding down. A good freeze can dramatically reduce the number of viable larvae on the pasture, so problems like barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) become a non-problem until spring when the pastures thaw.
However, fall is the time when goat, sheep and camelid owners start to see problems with meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis). Unlike intestinal worms, which go to work in an animal’s stomach or intestines as soon as it is ingested by the animal, the meningeal worm takes awhile to reach its destination, which is the spinal cord or brain. Sometimes called deer worm or m-worm, its usual host is the white tail deer, and it doesn’t really bother the deer much. However, it wreaks havoc in aberrant hosts, such as goats, sheep, and camelids (llamas and alpacas), as well as wild animals, including other deer species and even elk, moose, caribou, and antelope. Because it can take a couple of months to reach the spinal column or brain, most cases of m-worm are seen in the fall or early winter, even though the animal actually ingested the larvae in the summer. Why are animals usually infected in summer?
You may be familiar with tapeworms, which require an intermediate host to infect an animal. Tapeworms infect dogs via fleas. The goat species of tapeworm infects them through a pasture mite. The m-worm also needs an intermediate host, which is a snail or slug. The deer poops on the pasture, and the snail or slug crawls over the poop, which contains m-worm eggs, which are absorbed into the snail or slug and will remain in that little critter for the rest of its life. When the snail or slug is hanging out on a blade of grass or a leaf and is accidentally eaten by a goat or llama, the eater will then be infected by the worm. Some researchers also say that snails and slugs will shed eggs in their slime trail.
If you’re familiar with the concept of rotational grazing with mixed species, you may be wondering why a deer worm is able to infect other species. Most parasites are species specific, which is why using different animals for grazing the same pasture usually “cleans up” the pasture. If a cow or pig eats larvae of a worm that infects goats, that larvae simply dies in the intestines of the cow or pig because it’s a foreign environment for the parasite. It would be like a human trying to live on Mars. We can’t do it. In most cases, the m-worm can’t survive in an aberrant host either. Goats and sheep tend to be highly resistant. Llamas and alpacas are less resistant, so m-worm infection is more common with them.
This fall we had the misfortune of having two goats and a llama infected with m-worm. All of them had different symptoms, which is not uncommon. A week before Thanksgiving we found a goat lying in the middle of a snowy pasture one morning. Other than being unable to stand (and having hypothermia initially) it didn’t appear that there was anything wrong with her. She had a great appetite and was her usual cheerful self. We assumed she had suffered some type of spinal cord injury because lameness was her only symptom. A week later, there was a llama that was down in the pasture, but she had no appetite and didn’t even want to drink. Once we lifted her to her feet, she was able to walk some, but she kept crossing her hind legs. Five days later, we found a second goat down. When we lifted her, she could stand as long as she was leaning against something. She completely ignored food and water and was twisting her head to her right side. When she tried to take a few steps, she would move in a circle before falling down, which is a classic symptom of listeriosis. We initially thought she was blind because she had a blank stare, but her eyes did respond to us flicking our fingers at them. The eyeballs also quivered from side to side, which is called nystagmus.
M-worm is usually diagnosed based upon symptoms, although they can be very similar to other diseases and conditions, such as listeriosis and a spinal cord injury, as already mentioned. Other conditions that have similar symptoms are thiamine deficiency, goat polio, copper deficiency, foot rot, scrapie, and rabies. A spinal tap can sometimes help with diagnosis. Spinal fluid is normally crystal clear, so if you can’t read through a vial of the spinal fluid, it means something is wrong. If an analysis of the fluid reveals the presence of eosinophils, m-worm is likely the culprit. A definitive diagnosis can be made on necropsy.
Prognosis and treatment
Early diagnosis and treatment provides the best hope for survival of an infected animal. Because the worm is damaging the host’s spinal column and brain, the longer it lives, the more damage it does. Even one m-worm can eventually kill an animal simply because of where it is located, unlike intestinal worms, which may number in the millions. Intestinal worms either consume the food in the animal’s digestive system or they attach themselves to the lining of the animal’s stomach and drink its blood, so if you can simply kill the worms, the animal can usually recover. Repairing spinal cord damage or brain damage, however, is much more challenging and sometimes impossible. Recovery rates can be as low as 10-20%, especially when treatment is started too late or when an animal is already down.
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Treatment consists of giving both fenbendazole and ivermectin for five days to kill the worms. In addition to giving the dewormers at unusually high doses, the animal must also be treated for inflammation that will occur when the worms start to die. A long list of side effects and reactions, such as seizures, can occur during treatment, which is why it would be challenging to treat at home. Once they began treating our llama, she needed additional treatment to deal with high blood sugar and ketones in her urine. Her paralysis actually got worse, and she was unable to urinate or defecate on her own for more than a week, so the vet put in a urinary catheter, and feces had to be manually removed.
If an animal is paralyzed, it is important to have them on deeply bedded straw and change their position regularly to avoid urine scald and skin damage from pressure. It is better to have them propped up on their belly with legs tucked underneath rather than laying on their side with legs straight out.
Prevention of meningeal worm
A vaccine for meningeal worm does not currently exist. Because m-worm is so difficult to treat, prevention is important. Remember it takes both the deer and snails or slugs to complete the worm’s life cycle and infect a goat, sheep, or camelid. People had asked me in the past if I was worried about m-worm infecting my goats that grazed around our pond. However, in almost twelve years, we’ve never had a problem. Why? It could be because chickens, geese, turkeys, and ducks forage around our pond, so snails and slugs probably don’t have a chance to become abundant. However, because our pond is quite literally in our backyard, deer stay away. Livestock guardian dogs may also help keep deer away. I know our dogs go nuts barking long before I even notice deer far off in the distance.
Some llama and alpaca breeders give a dewormer (either fenbendazole or ivermectin) monthly during the summer when snails and slugs are more prevalent, but this is a losing proposition with goats and sheep. Giving a dewormer every month will results in the barber pole worm becoming resistant to those dewormers, and they are a much greater risk to small ruminant health than m-worm. Thousands of goats and sheep now die every year from intestinal worms because of dewormer resistance.
It is unusual to hear about a herd that has more than one animal infected with m-worm. So, how did we wind up with three? The two goats that were infected were full sisters, leading me to believe that just as with other worms, there is a genetic predisposition to worm resistance. Other goats that were in that area did not get infected, including old goats that were retired and theoretically should have had lower resistance. The animals that were infected had all spent a lot of time in a wooded area frequented by deer and usually avoided by humans and dogs.
My first reaction was that we would never put goats back there again. But after thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I’ve decided that we will put bucks in that area. Because most goats are resistant to m-worm, it only makes sense to use bucks that are resistant so that they will hopefully pass on those genetics to their kids.
If you live in an area that has an abundance of deer that get into your pasture, you may want to consider deer-proof fencing, which is either 8-foot tall fencing, or a double fence, which is perimeter fence that is a few feet away from the other fence. Because deer need a running start to jump a fence, they can’t jump into your pasture if they first jump another fence that simply lands them in a small lane of fencing. The only way they can get out of that lane is to run to the end and jump out and away from your pasture.
Because goats, sheep, and camelids are a dead-end host for the m-worm, you don’t have to worry about them giving it to other animals in your herd or flock. The worm does not reproduce in these animals, and because it is not living in the digestive tract, it would not be leaving eggs in the feces, even if it did try to reproduce.
Unlike intestinal worms that are destroyed by freezing, larvae from meningeal worms don’t seem to be bothered by cold temperatures. In one experiment, larvae survived on lettuce leaves at -4 degrees Fahrenheit for seven days! That’s when the experiment ended, but since most of us don’t live somewhere that stays that cold for a week, it would have been pointless to continue. The simple fact is that we can’t count on winter to destroy the m-worm larvae that is on the pasture.
Since many people have been asking what happened to Katy, I wrote this post — Making the Hard Decisions.
You can also learn more about deer worm in goats by listening to my podcast interview with Dr. Tatiana Stanton, a goat and sheep specialist with Cornell University Extension. She is talking about how deer worm is different than intestinal worms that goats have, symptoms of an infection, and treatment.
78 thoughts on “M-worm: A Nightmare for Goat, Sheep, and Camelid Owners”
Thank you so much for this article, I learned a lot! I also picked up your book just now on Amazon (Kindle edition)…I "fast-forwarded" to the section on parasites and worms to learn even more! I'll enjoy reading the rest of it over time. Appreciate that you've worked on these pieces to share your well-learned lessons with those of us getting started 🙂
Ive been in the goat business for 4 yrs and have become very familiar with “Brain Worm”. I live in the Appalachian Mountains where deer are horde present. Ive had 6 cases of “Brain Worm”. Thanks to my fantastic large animal vet we have been successful so far. At present I have two sisters 8 months old with or recovering from “Brain Worm”. Lil Doogie has been recovering for 2 months. Symptoms presented was inability to keep herself upright when knocked over as well as her head and neck curved far right of her body. She was immediately brought into a stall given “Safeguard” and the game was on. The key to “Safeguard” bought at the local Tractor Supply was to administer 5times the amount listed on the bottle. Now 2 months later her neck and head are almost perfectly normal. However, she was listed as a “disabled goat”. Her sister “Izzy” unfortunately broke her left rear femur and was placed in a splint. She did very well until her 3rd week when she started showing clinical signs of Brain Worm. Weakness in her legs which was attributed to carrying the splint then her neck started curving to her body. I immediately administered “Safeguard which I had purchased at Tractor Supply. We are now into day 3 of a 5 day cycle of administering “Safeguard”. She is unable to stand but is eating grain and drinking water. A very good sign. I will admit this morning I was ready to give up and put her down however my large animal vet wants me to wait until Monday to give at least 4 days of medication to take affect. While its difficult to watch her lay there unable to get up and her neck twisted like that she is eating and drinking and doing all normal bodily functions. I will continue the fight because her sister whom I and the vet thought would have a lifelong disability now holds her head and body correctly.
I have read this and have never had really heard of the brain worm until this goat I bought I’m treating for both listeria and the worm wish me luck and prayers
So sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this! Since symptoms are so similar, a lot of vets wind up treating for both. Good luck!
What ended up happening to the three animals you described?
Timpani the goat did not improve with treatment while at the U of I vet hospital, so they put her down. Katy the llama never regained the ability to stand up on her own, and she actually started to lose strength after a few months so that she was unable to stand for more than a few minutes. We wound up putting her down in May. It turned out that Windy the goat was pregnant. She gave birth to two healthy kids in April, although she herself is still holding her body crooked and does not appear to be very healthy. I'd like to find a nice pet home for her where she won't be bred again.
I would recommend googling goat rescue places.
The most difficult thing regarding wormer is that people worm on a schedule a lot of the times. However the problem with that is the goats build up a tolerance to the medication. I work with the thinking of treating only when there are clinical signs…aka….the lids of their eyes are whitish or white…diarrhea…..or in the case of brain worm…irregular movements whether the body or head. We’ve had such a difficult time with worms the past 2 years that we stick to the strict only treat when they present with clinical signs listed above. Even then we struggled. The most effective wormer we’ve come across is an old one used back in the 60’s. “Prohibit” It must be precise on weight. We have also started giving cooper pills every six months. Reason. The barvapole worm is a sneaky bastard. Shows no clinical signs of pale eyelids or diarrhea but the goat is obviously distressed. Hence the cooper pill. The Barvapole worm attached to the lining of the stomach or intestines. The cooper makes it so that there is no attachment. It lines the stomach and intestines. I’m hoping that I’m helping so no offence that I’m not perfect in my advice.
You are correct that copper oxide wire particles are effective against barber pole worm, and they do get stuck in the folds of the stomach. However, you are only giving 1 gram per 22 pounds, so that’s not enough to actually line the stomach. Joan Burke, PhD, is the person who has published at least a dozen studies on using COWP for bareber pole worm, and she said that they don’t know exactly why it works. But with that many studies completed, they know it does work.
How did Windy do giving birth and taking care of the babies? I have a female who has recovered from m worm, just walks a little slower and doesn’t do the crazy goat run. Unfortunately she became pregnant when my son’s male jumped the stall – vet feels like she can handle giving birth just not sure if she would stand to nurse. Torn as what to do for her. Thank you
She did totally fine giving birth and nursing. And the kids didn’t have two heads or anything crazy, which was one of my concerns because she was given such high doses of dewormer in early pregnancy. If your doe’s back end is weak, I’d be more worried about her back legs giving away towards the end of pregnancy due to the increased weight. Standing to let the kids nurse shouldn’t be a problem based on what you’ve said.
What wormer do you use for intestinal
You should use whatever works on your farm, and that may be different for every farm because intestinal worms have developed resistance to dewormers on some farms. Raising Goats Naturally has 24 pages on parasites, so I can’t easily summarize it here, and it’s not just a matter of giving a dewormer. There is a lot more to it than that. Here are a couple of posts that will give you the basics:
Our llama Zoe went down the night of September 12th. The next day we started treating her for meningeal worms. For 3 days we were unable to get her to stand and with the assistance of a holistic vet and a sling that she helped us come up with, we were finally able to get her to stand. She seemed to be making strides of improvement up until a few days ago when she started showing muscle weakness. Not sure where to go from here.
This is a very tough place to be. The problem with m-worm is that once nerve damage is done, it's VERY difficult to repair. We worked with our llama for six months, lifting her multiple times every day, and she was not able to stand again on her own, so we finally made the very tough decision to put her down because we realized she had very poor quality of life.
dealing with this currently in my dwarf goat. She is on her 3rd dose of Safeguard with veterinary assistance along with meloxicam for pain, anti inflammatory and steroids. I see her getting worse. The vet said, it's probably the killing off of the parasite(s) that makes it worse. I am also providing B1 twice a day. When will I see positive results?? Could the treatment fail??
u should see some improvement in at leat 3 days but complete recovery may never happen or could take 2 months like it did for our goat Lil Doogie.
I am on my third Veterinarian who finally diagnosed my poor girl (Nigerian dwarf goat) to have this parasite. She is treating with Safeguard, B1, Meloxicam, steroids and anti inflammatory. So far it has been 3 days and it seems to be getting worse. I have to hold her and hand feed her, she can not walk and looks dazed and confused. Will this treatment work for certain? What are her odds? There has to be hope, this parasite is so cruel!
The chance for a full recovery was quoted as only about 20% to me — and that is when treatment is started as soon as you see the first symptoms. If you had to go through three vets to get a diagnosis, it does not sound like treatment was started very quickly. Even if she does survive, she will probably have some permanent neurological damage.
I have an 8 year sheep that appears to have mworm. She eats great, her out put is normal, but she can’t get up. Her back legs cross when she tries to get up. She is fiesty and alert. I don’t want to be cruel, but it’s hard to put an animal down when it’s so alert and looks me in the eye. I need advice. I’ve been trying various homeopathic remedies after the vet and I did the extensive deworming and anti-inflammatory drugs. It has been 4 months. She is no worse and no better.
I am so sorry! I know exactly what you’re dealing with. That’s what happened to our first llama that got it. We spent six months lifting her up, hoping she’d improve, and there were a couple of times she did things that completely amazed us — like walking across the pasture (after we’d lifted her up) — those times were few and far between. And she was never able to stand up on her own. It was a very hard decision, but we finally realized that she didn’t have a decent quality of life and put her down. But this is totally your call. You’ll have to do what works for you. If you find some type of alternative treatment that helps her, I hope you’ll come back and share it with us! Nerve damage is a challenge.
After years and years of wanting alpacas, we finally purchased 3 in January. Everything was going well until 2 days ago. My favorite girl, Francis, who would kiss us and love on us looked drunk. I called the vet and started meds that same day. She is still completely mobile (in her drunk-looking manner) but she is not herself and the act of twice daily meds has been so hard on me! I keep telling myself we are doing this to save her even though it seems so traumatic. She throws huge tantrums and one of the other alpacas has become very protective of her, making treatment even more difficult. I just hope we can save her and we get back our sweet girl and regain the trust of our herd.
I am so sorry to hear that. I hope she recovers! You might be interested in the post I wrote last week. It tells the rest of the Katy’s story. Hopefully you got treatment started early enough that your girl will have a better outcome. http://thriftyhomesteader.com/making-hard-decisions/
I have a Nigerian dwarf wether that hunches up and walks stiff in his back end we treat him for m worm because my husbands started off the same way and died on us. After she died the vet said she had m worm. Even after treating him he still walks hunched but will sometimes straighten out but always walk stiff.
Your blog has been a shining light during this difficult time. I am sad to say we have a goat whom has the M parasite. Adding to the mix she is pregnant with twins.
Have you had an animal effected while being pregnant?
At this point we are doing everything for her. I wish she would make a turn for the best but i’m afraid were to late in chatting this bug.
Thanks again for the information!
We did have a doe that was pregnant, which was Windy, the doe pictured above. She was actually in a breeding pen with a buck when we realized that she she had m-worm. Luckily she was the third animal (second goat) to get it so we recognized it immediately and got her treated immediately. She’s the only survivor of m-worm every on our farm. It turned out that she was very newly pregnant. Considering the level of dewormers she was given and other drugs (anti-inflammatories and I don’t remember what else), I was hoping she wouldn’t have any mummified kids or five-legged kids or anything weird. I’m happy to say that she gave birth to perfectly healthy and normal twins! Other than having some balance issues when she tried to jump up on the milk stand, she fully recovered.
Is there a certain dosage of Safeguard to give to treat the M-Worm? My vet was treating for polio but the only symptom she had was head pressing. We gave penicillin, dexamethasone, and thiamine shots for a week and through all of this she’s great but just a little head pressing in the mornings. I can’t get my vet to respond to my questions and she’s doing so good I don’t want her to get worse. My buck went to breed her yesterday and she was acting so weird and fell down completely. Someone please help.
The dosage used in research by Cornell University was 5x the amount on the label for intestinal worms, and it is give for five days. If she has either m-worm or listeriosis, I hope she did not get bred. She is in no condition to support a pregnancy.
I have a 2yr.old doe that I treated for mworm about 3 weeks ago. she stands curved and is weak on one hind leg. other than that she is great. is their anything else I can do to help her? I just don’t want to give up yet.
At this point, she’s past the worst part. Nerve damage is tough to overcome, so she’ll probably continue to improve some more, but the good news is that she shouldn’t get any worse. She’ll probably learn to deal with standing curved, and hopefully the strength in her hind leg will continue to improve.
ok thank you. I will continue to work with her.
I wanted to offer a story of hope for those battling this horrible illness. My doe Clover came down hard with m-worm in the fall 3 years ago. I had never heard of m-worm but my vet recognized it quickly and jumped on an aggressive treatment protocol. Initially she was totally paralyzed from the front legs to the back, we thought there was no way she would every be able to walk, but we hung in there and she started to regain use of her front legs. At that point we had hope so we started physical therapy on her hind legs so they would not attrophy – wrapped a town under her belly, one of us on each side holding the towel and “walking” her. It took months but her progress was slow and positive. Eventually she started using her back legs on her own. Today she still has a limp, her spine is a bit curved, some days the limp is worse that others and some days she is almost normal. She will never be bred again, but she is living a happy goat life and when the sun is shining in the warm weather she regularly does what I call the “Happy Goat Dance”. I know we were incredibly lucky and she falls in to that 10-20%. I offer this little story as hope for those are in the middle of dealing with this horribly cruel illness. We each have to make our own decisions based on individual circumstances. But once in a while they can pull through and have happy goat lives.
That’s a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing!
Hi, I’d also like to share a hopeful story. In Feb of 2007, we were beginner llama owners and we had our 7 yr old llama go down with meningeal worm. Fortunately our vet recognized the problem and started aggressive treatment. Our llama started out being unable to stand for more than a few minutes at a time.We started with 4 people and a towel to lift and move her, and progressed to a sling and heavy duty pulley system rigged up in the barn. We bedded her in deep straw and covered her in layers of blankets to keep her warm when we weren’t working with her. I did range of motion exercises, massaged her, stayed out in the barn, talked and sang to her–no kidding! Her attitude was always bright and alert, and she adapted well to the rehab lifestyle, having to eat, drink, pee and poop, and get sheared while being a “downer”. As the months went by, we helped her outdoors in good weather, and in bad weather we cut grass and pine boughs for her so she wouldn’t be bored. Her feet started to dry out and crack, so we added foot massages with a moisturizer for horse hoofs (worked!) This was an extremely labor-intensive project, involving our vet, family, friends and neighbors. Through it all, our llama’s never give up attitude inspired us to keep going. She did not get up on her own again until SEPTEMBER 2008 yes, you read that right! As an experienced llama farmer predicted for us, one day we went out to where we had left her to get her on her feet and she wasn’t there– she was up and walking around! Then the questions– did YOU get her up? No, did you?? The m-worm did leave its marks, our girl had a curved neck, a slight head tilt, and her front legs moved with a prancing motion and more quickly than her hind.(hypermetria) But she was able to move about, graze and hang out with her pasturemates until she was almost fifteen years old! By then, age and complications from her condition were overwhelming her and we then made the decision to euthanize. We never regretted our decision to persevere with our llama. So if your animal has the will to survive–and you will know–and you have the time, the help and the resources needed, miracles are possible!! A final note– all of our animals are on a RELIGIOUS deworming regimen year-round, using fenbendazole, dectomax and ivermectin. We have not had another case of m-worm.
Wow! What an incredible story! Thanks for sharing!
When you say “ religious “ Do you mean worming on a schedule w/ o clinical signs or fecal test to determine what you’re dealing with.? I hope not! Worming in that fashion is what has caused resistance to some worming meds – IE they no longer function !
Good point! I didn’t realize they said “all of our animals.” I was just thinking of the llamas. Unfortunately with them, many camelid owners have had to figure out what is a bigger threat — m-worm or intestinal worms. Since the m-worm cannot complete a life cycle inside of sheep, goats, or camelids, they can’t become resistant to the worms. However, the worms don’t know that you’re just using the dewormer for m-worm, so you are absolutely correct that intestinal worms will become immune to the dewormers. So, if these animals ever need a dewormer for intestinal worms, they will have to use something else because the dewormers listed will no longer work. For that reason, most people just choose one of those dewormers to basically sacrifice for m-worm, knowing that it won’t work for intestinal worms. There is no reason to use more than one as a preventative for m-worm.
That is so promising. My goat has M Worm. We are in day 5. She is bright and wanting to spend time with her buddies but I feel its not time yet. She loses her balance quite easily. She thinks shes ok but then gets moving too quick and nose dives.
That does sound promising! Good luck!
How can you treat pregnant does for m-worm? Val isn’t safe…. right?
Safeguard and ivermectin are the two drugs usually used to treat m-worm. Apparently the Safeguard is the most important of the duo. Some say that the ivermectin isn’t that important. But the dosage of Safeguard is much higher than what is used for treating intestinal worms.
I have a goat that survived the meningeal Deer worm infection because I got super aggressive with her treatment. She never was completely down but she did sit on her haunches when she was in the worst of the ordeal. Now she is just a bit wobbly in the back but she is very healthy otherwise. We let her go for a year and decided to try to breed her but don’t think she took. Do you think or have you heard where this can cause sterility in animals that survive it?
All of the damage is neurological, so it should not affect fertility.
I know this was months ago, but I have something to share.
Three years ago, my favorite doe came down with the strangest behaviors. I had never seen m. worm before, but now recognize that the first sign can be lesions on the goat’s sides. My gal had terrible sores, but I thought that she may have had mites or something similar. Did not figure out what it was until the neurological symptoms kicked in.
We treated my gal with a degree of success. She was still a little slow at times, but she was able to walk and graze with no problem.
Then, her two daughters became symptomatic. This time, we knew what we had to do, and hit them hard with interventions. One doe did very well, but her sister looked like she’d been through a train wreck.
Eventually, we went ahead and bred the dam and the one daughter who was doing well. Both delivered kids, but the dam’s did not make it. Both appeared in good health, and by next breeding season, they had successful pregnancies.
The one “train wreck” doe hangs out with the sheep. We thought we kept her safe from the buck, but she must have sneaked in with him at some point, because this past Easter, she delivered triplets! We pulled the kids to bottle feed, but this gal insisted on being a milker again, consistently showing up at the milk stanchion with the other girls.
She did well milking, and is now bred again for next season.
Would Bo-se assist with leg strength? I know Selenium deficits cause the need and this is all about the M worm, but just wondered?
Also, the goats can battle this with copper bolus,
Any other animals that can? Llamas?
They did give our llama and goat BoSe to assist with overall recovery, but who knows how much it actually helped. The llama ultimately never recovered in six months, but the goat mostly recovered. I think their recovery had to do with how quickly treatment began for each one.
Copper bolus only kills barber pole worm — none of the other round worms and definitely not meningeal worm.
I live in rural West Virginia. We have lost 3 young calves to this worm. Doesn’t bother the cows. However my question is our cattle dog is now having the same symptoms. Can dogs get this?
I have never heard of cattle getting m-worm, and I just did a quick search online, and I cannot find anything that says they do. In fact, I found one source that specifically says they don’t get them. Everything I’ve read says that in terms of livestock, only camelids, goats, and sheep get them. The symptoms are almost identical to listeriosis, which cattle do get. I’m not sure about dogs, but humans can even get listeriosis. I’m sure there are a number of different diseases that can cause similar neurological symptoms in dogs. In any case, you’d have to consult a vet for a diagnosis and treatment.
You may want to have your dog tested for meningitis.
ok so I just had a wether that I put down. He had been feeling off but thought it was the heat. The vet and I did the necropsy and believe it was mw. Ok so the buck that was with him (i know it isn’t contagious) has some bare patches on his hips. He is not neurological at all and is in full rut. I am going to treat him like he has it with 1cc of ivermectin per 25 lbs and a course of safeguard for 5 days at ten times the dose. Now the others, no bald patches but occasional itching along the fence. No signs of any neurological stuff going on. Not on pasture but eating the same hay. I gave safeguard today (the two i saw scratching the most) at the treatment rate but is that necessary? please help it has been a hard day and we have a hurricane coming upon us and I have to go buy some more of this stuff to treat with the next few days.
I don’t understand why you are treating the buck in rut. Goats with m-worm do not lose hair. Sounds like your other goats could have lice or perhaps a zinc deficiency. Bald patches on the body often indication zinc deficiency. It is most common with bucks being fed alfalfa because that has too much calcium in it for bucks, so it binds with the zinc, causing deficiency. Here is more on that —
Because very few goats tend to get m-worm, that means there is a very strong genetic component. I personally decided that I wanted bucks that were resistant to m-worm, so I would not treat one if they did get it. I’d just put them down because I would not want it to suffer, and I also don’t want to pass on those genes. That may not be the right choice for everyone, but it is something to think about.
I am not a fan of using any dewormers when it is not absolutely necessary because every time you use it, the intestinal worms are becoming increasingly resistant, so at some point the dewormers will no longer work on intestinal worms, which are a MUCH bigger threat to goats than m-worm.
I beg to differ with you, Thrifty Homesteader. The lesions caused by m. worm can cause the goat to scratch off the hair. I’ve seen this in three adults, and the 6 month old kid that I found with lesions today.
If you’ll check out TN Meat Goats page on m. worm, https://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com/articles2/meningealworm.html
you’ll find that there are cutaneous symptoms:
” the goat oftentimes (but not always) experiences intense itching and may begin chewing holes in its hide. Shaving the hair off the sites where itching and chewing are occurring will usually reveal a straight line of hard nodules over which the skin has thickened leading from the spine. These are the subcutaneous larvae migrating throughout the goat’s body.”
I have checked three veterinary text books, and finally found one sentence about goats getting itchy and scratching off hair, so it is a very rare symptom. As someone who has had goats and llamas die of meningeal worm, as verified by necropsy and lab analysis, I really can’t imagine an animal with that disease having the strength or coordination to be scratching on anything, although they all have slightly varying degrees of debilitation.
The website you linked to does NOT have any scientific citations, and it appears that the info is based mostly on the experience of one person, although it’s not thoroughly explained. I have never heard of a goat with m-worm having visible lesions on the outside of their body. The worms are inside the spinal column or brain stem. They are not subcutaneous. The fact that she says they “often” have lesions shows how inaccurate this is. I’ve seen two goats with m-worm and four llamas, and not one had a single lesion on its body or was itchy. And none of the vet professors ever mentioned that as a possible symptom, and I’ve communicated with dozens of people who’ve had goats with m-worm, and this is the first time I’ve heard of a symptom involving the skin. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s very rare.
In this particular thread, I suggested lice or mites because you almost never have more than one goat in a herd affected with m-worm. If anyone told their vet they had several itchy goats, the first thing they would suggest is that you look for signs of lice or mites — especially with zero neurological symptoms, which are the main symptom of a worm in the spinal column or brain stem. M-worm is not contagious between goats, so odds of more than one goat getting it would be extremely small. Also, if goats are not on pasture, I don’t know how they could be exposed to the parasite because you need both deer and snails/slugs to complete the cycle for infection with goats.
12/5/19. Just came across the TN meat host site and this forum. My doe was chewing patches in her hide for the last two weeks. I thought it was the winter coat coming in or external parisites. Three days ago one of her legs stopped working, now both her hind legs don’t work. There is no doubt a correlation between the itching and the worm. I am going to start treatment tomorrow. It would be helpful if some one posted the exact dosing for the safe guard and ivo… This is kinda the info I assume people are really in need of… Thanks
I recently discovered that Cornell University mentions lesions and itching in correlation with meningeal worm. It’s interesting that I have not seen it mentioned before. The dosage that they recommend in here — https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/blogs.cornell.edu/dist/e/7832/files/2017/11/P.-tenuis-Producer-Factsheet-2gkq1rv.pdf — is 5x the regular dosage of Safeguard on the label for five days. The rest of the treatment they tested is in the PDF, but the Safeguard is the most important part. Good luck!
I have seen the lesions in a few of my goats. For 2 of them it was the only symptom. The lesion is a long thin stripe from the spinal cord down the side. Sometimes down the neck. It does not seem to cross over the spinal cord. It looks almost like a chemical burn. It is intensely itchy. I have seen this symptom listed in some research articles. The first time we saw it we responded with steroids and antihistamines. Now we know to give ivermectin (which kills any m-worm still in the intestines) and safeguard which passes through the spinal cord/brain membrane. We have had very good luck with almost full recovery for all the goats that have it. I have changed some of my habits: I used to walk my goats in the woods in the morning. Now I wait for the dew to dry before anyone goes out to pasture or for a walk.
My 15 month old llama is laying down too much. I just notice this yesterday and she’s not getting up when I come up to her. She lives in my back yard since we lost her mother last summer to birth infection. I’m always looking out for her since she’s a bottle fed baby. I have an appointment with a llama vet tomorrow. Do you think she has a chance to make it? Since it’s only been two days since she started showing symptoms of the Mworm?
You seriously need a crystal ball to know how an animal is going to recover — or not — from m-worm. It all depends on where the worm wound up in the spinal column or brain stem and how much damage it has done by the time you treat. Repairing nerve damage is tough.
I am ‘hopeful’ if not scared still, but this post helped me, and all the stories. We run a non profit, and share our animals with elder people. Birdie, our ‘love llama’ is loved by so many. We moved to Maine two years ago, and I was not used to the wetter pasture, and to be honest, was inexperienced with the M worm, and had not found my vets yet. Anyway, I noticed one day when she went to get up, she struggled, like her end was paralyzed. It was October 6. Got another shot of ivermectin in her, and called my vet and we got her on the two week intense regime. She was never totally ‘down’ and could rise on her own, graze, eat, drink, pee etc. She clearly was inbalanced in the rear though, parked her legs, etc. Well I was feeling pretty hopeful, it is now 11/18 and yesterday out of the blue she could not get up, I helped her, and it took her awhile to not stumble. When she went to pee right after , she almost couldn’t hold herself up, but did. I called my vet thinking I should give banamine shots again, so we are to see if we get some improvement. Yesterday was first banamine shot again, and this morning she was lying down [on all fours, not cast, she has never been cast] and again i had to get her up. Once up and wobbly walking for a bit, she was standing and eating ok. He also has a crooked neck now? It is very slight, but reading comments I guess that is normal? I did not notice it though, I had hold her and touch her all the time so i assume this slight curve came on after the treatment. Anyway, I know nobody can tell me it will be ok, or not, but she sure is a special llama and I will fight for her as long as we can, as long as she is not miserable. She still smiles and is loving. It’s heartbreaking to watch this disease. And boy, did I learn something though all this. I also saw the comments about lesions. I have to say, I starting noticing little bumps, feeling them, on her neck, not a whole lot, and I figured it was just a skin thing. They are hard and don’t seem to bother her when handled.
It really does not sound like the m-worm was killed. The fact that she is showing more neurologic symptoms is not good. Was she treated with Safeguard? That’s the drug that really does the most good. Some have even eliminated the Ivermectin because they don’t think it reaches the m-worm. I’ve never heard of a 2-week protocol. Typically it’s 3 days of Safeguard at a much higher dose than normal. (I want to say it’s 10x, but I’m traveling right now and going on memory as I don’t have my texts with me to look it up.)
we did 5 days of safeguard 10x the dose, with ban amine 2x a day for 5 days, then ban amine 1x a day for five days [that’s the 10 days i meant]. She was doing great, then 2 weeks later as I said couldn’t get up without my help. So the vet jut was out and we did Cydectin Oral and big hit of ban amine. Next day she was good. We are switching to another anti inflammatory to see if it is working, so far so good, so she doesn’t have to be on ban amine which I guess can cause ulcers over time. Anyway, thanks. People should consult their vets.
Banamine is only used as needed because as you noted, it can cause ulcers. Ten days is a long time to use it. Good luck with her! And this is definitely a disease that’s tough to treat without a vet. There are so many nuances, and you may need all sorts of treatment for the side effects.
We are dealing with expected deerworm in one of our Boer goats. Treating now with safeguard and 3 aorin twice a day for 5 days. He’s only 9 months old hoping we can beat this. He is still mobile but drags hind leg.
Diatomaceous earth is not a chemical that can create a resistance. Is it just not real reliable as a maintenance wormer? I’ve used it with my pets both internally and externally, and I know it can be mixed with stored food to reduce bug problems.
It sounds like you are asking if you could use DE as a preventative for m-worm. DE works great in the garden and in stored grains to avoid infestation with insects. However, it does not work well with internal parasites. Because it is a physical dewormer that must come in contact with the parasite to kill it, you’d have to give incredibly large amounts because the rumen is huge. However, entomologists say that it works in the garden by dehydrating insects because it is an adsorbent. Such a mode of action does not work in the rumen, which is a wet environment, so the DE would become saturated before it even came in contact with the parasites. Although it is commonly thought that DE works be stabbing insects, entomologists say that it is not really that sharp, in spite of how it may look under a microscope. Indeed it feels as soft as baby powder on your fingers. Controlled studies that attempted to determine the effectiveness of DE on internal parasites has not shown positive results, so the chances of it helping prevent m-worm are pretty minimal.
I have a about a 5 month old girl goat and she started dragging her hind legs out of nowhere could this be m worm she a dwarf goat
It could be lots of different things. She could have broken her leg or have a soft tissue injury. Both of those things are more likely if the leg is the only symptom.
Sorry I didn’t comment on my original thread above. Just wanted to say thank you for the Cornell guidance and ask another question. Do you know if a follow up treatment is required similar to when treating stomach worms? For example10-14 days later? Are there eggs that will hatch and which need to be killed?
FYI, My doe responded ok to the treatment. 5 days 10x safeguard oral (20ml/day). 3 days ivomectin plus subcutaneous (3ml/day). 5 days banamine inter muscle (2ml/ day). I didn’t start giving ivomectin until after reading the Cornell document a couple days later, but I figured might as well try it. The doe started to stand without falling immediately about 4 days into the treatment. Her rear spine is still crooked and she still doesn’t have good control of her rear legs … It is 11 days post treatment. Not sure if she will ever be back to 100 percent, but right now just want to make sure the m with e doesn’t need a repeat treatment for egg hatch or anything like that. Thanks again. Nick
I’m glad to hear she’s improving. Goats are a dead-end host for m-worm. They can only reproduce in white tail deer, so goats cannot give it to each other, and once you’ve killed the worms in a goat, they’re dead. Most goats are actually immune to the worm as worms are species-specific. For example, if pigs eat goat poop, they can’t get infected with barber pole worm because it can only survive in sheep and goats. It is actually very odd that m-worm can infect anything other than a white tail deer.
Speaking of intestinal worms, the advice to give a second dose of dewormer is very old and not recommended, based upon the latest research. Here is an article about several outdated practices that are still common:
We now know that it is impossible to get to 0 worms in goats, and in our quest to do so, we ultimately create super worms that become resistant to the dewormers.
Sorry for the delay. I’ve been on vacation.
I also believe there can be significant genetic resistance in a goat to deer worm. Right now, I’m doing research to see if it’s possible for a genetic weakness (causing a goat to be susceptible to m-worm) to be passed on to the next generation. Do you have any thoughts on this? I know you mentioned your infected goats were full sisters – we had the same experience on our farm.
I definitely believe there is a genetic predisposition to being susceptible or immune. In 18 years with hundreds of goats, we have only had two cases, and they were with the two full sisters who were mostly unrelated to the rest of my herd. I have also read that sheep are more immune than goats, and that goats are more immune than camelids, which seem to be very susceptible.
I just read your blog post about M-worm. It’s very insightful. I didn’t realize camelids were so much more susceptible! I wanted to shared my story about one Nigerian Dwarf affected several years ago.
I live on a damp wooded ridge, and my goats are in the woods. There are white tails all over. Several years ago I was using electro net fencing to let my bucks browse one area then another. I thought nothing of it. I sent my buck to the neighbor’s as I do anually so he can breed their three does. The neighbor is more hands off than me.
When I picked up my buck, he wasn’t acting quite right. He’d slip on the rocks of our hillside and would fall when he was sparring with the other 2 bucks.
His membranes looked red. He didn’t circle, and he ate fine. No fever.
The next morning he couldn’t walk without slipping and his back legs going out.
I had heard about M worm, asked a couple friends, and got a good protocol to follow, which is as you described, abd what both these friends used for their goats. I gave him a couple huge doses of Dexamethasone after the huge doses of Safeguard, and he had tremors, what looked like a mild seizure. That was a pretty scary day. With the b-complex and lowering the dose of Dex, he improved slowly. He regained all use of his rear legs but never could feel his toes/ hooves again.
The next spring he won his last 2 Champion legs and became a finished champion buck and 2 times Best Buck in Show.
I was so very proud of him. Only I and a couple other people knew he still couldn’t feel his back feet at all.
By the time this buck was 5 years old , I’d seen him through 2 more winters of slipping on our icy rocks as he got around, and I knew he was as healed as he could be, but without sensation in the back feet, something would go wrong sooner or later. The cold winters always were hard on the nerve damage.
He was sold to a farm in the Deep South where he prances around proudly on flat sandy soil and looks quite healthy.
None of the goats ever leave the high fenced area now unless there are drought conditions, which happens once every few summers. None of the deer come in. They just look at us through the wire.
Thanks for sharing your story! It seems that very few ever recover 100%, but sounds like your guy recovered well enough to continue to be productive. That’s awesome!
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I note this was originally written several years ago. Any chance there are more natural “dewormers” than Ivermectin or Dectomax? I don’t want to impact the resistance to parasites in our sheep by having the dewormed llama manure on our pasture.
Ivermectin and Safeguard are the dewormers used for m-worm. It is NOT recommended that you use them routinely in goats and sheep because of the problems with resistance. If you are only using them routinely in your llamas, they are not spreading manure around your pasture like goats and sheep because they use a dung pile, meaning they always poop in the same place. Larvae can’t crawl, so the only place where they are dumping eggs (that hatch into larvae) is in the dung pile, so the only grass that has larvae on it is the grass that is on the edge of dung pile, and I really don’t think goats are going to eat grass that’s coming out of a pile of poop.
There is no research on this, but if you were worried about your goats eating from the dung pile, you could sprinkle diatomaceous earth on it. DE is a physical insecticide that works well in the garden, so should work on a dung pile since it’s in such a concentrated area. Sprinkling it on your whole pasture would be an exercise is futility though.
Thank you for sharing. I have had 3 cases of m-worm. Nigerian Dwarf doeling and 2 adult bucks. All recovered fully with Dex, 10 x dose of safeguard and Banamine during inflammation. I could tell when the inflammation hit, head would start wabbling consistently and unable to drink water. My doeling took 4 months to recover but has made a full recovery, as did my bucks. My CH buck went on to continue showing and earning his share of Best In Show wins. My doeling is now a beautiful Sr doe and has kidded with no issues :).
Thanks so much for sharing your story! This is wonderful to hear!