The Barberpole stomach worm, scientifically known as Haemonchus contortus, stands as the primary culprit behind anemia in goats.
Anemia in Goats
This parasitic worm thrives by feeding on blood, leading to the destruction of red blood cells that play a vital role in delivering oxygen to all organs within the goat’s body. Even essential organs like the brain and muscles suffer from oxygen depletion due to this worm’s activity. In severe cases, the depletion of oxygen becomes so intense that the goat’s muscles cease to function, and its brain, along with other organs, starts to fail.
Regrettably, many goat raisers underestimate the life-threatening potential of the Barberpole worm on their goats’ health. Remarkably, in many areas, almost every challenge in a goat’s life, from beginning to end, can be traced back to an infestation of the Barberpole worm.
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The condition of hypoproteinemia arises from a rapid decline in red blood cells, causing a depletion of proteins. A prominent external sign of this condition is bottlejaw – a swelling beneath the chin that worsens throughout the day, appearing to diminish overnight but resurfacing the following evening. Additionally, edema, characterized by swelling due to fluid exiting blood vessels (a consequence of severe protein deficiency), can be observed pooling beneath the chin.
Anemia poses a life-threatening illness for goats, and recovery is only possible through proper intervention. Administering the appropriate dewormer to eliminate the worms responsible for the issue is essential. This should be followed by a comprehensive treatment plan spanning 30 days or more, which includes Vitamin B12 injections (requiring a veterinarian’s prescription) and oral iron supplements like Red Cell.
It’s crucial to note that there’s no quick fix for curing goat anemia; a thorough approach involving the eradication of approximately 95% of the worms and treatment with prescription Vitamin B12 injections and oral Red Cell is necessary to rebuild red blood cells. This process demands both attentive goat care and the necessary time for the goat’s body to regenerate red blood cells.
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For goat raisers, early detection of Haemonchus contortus worm infestations can be achieved through the FAMACHA field test. This involves pulling down the goat’s lower eyelid and examining the color of the inner membrane. In healthy, non-anemic goats, the inner lower eye membrane exhibits a vibrant red or red hue.
A shift towards pink or light pink is indicative of a problem. White signals severe anemia, necessitating immediate treatment to prevent the goat’s demise. It’s imperative to stress that a goat with a pink, light pink, or white inner lower eye membrane is severely anemic and won’t survive without swift intervention.
While the conventional 1 to 5 FAMACHA scoring system can be employed, personally, a bright red to red coloration serves as my initial indicator.
Nonetheless, relying solely on FAMACHA isn’t sufficient to gauge worm loads accurately. The definitive approach involves conducting fecal egg counts using a microscope and McMasters slide. This procedure is the only reliable method to determine the number of eggs per gram, and it necessitates utilizing a McMasters slide with a microscope.
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While liver flukes can contribute to anemia, they typically disrupt a limited number of blood vessels and feed on pooled blood. Over time, anemia from liver fluke infection can develop, but the pace and intensity pale in comparison to the impact of the Barberpole stomach worm. Importantly, FAMACHA exclusively targets Barberpole stomach worms and doesn’t reflect liver fluke infection. Detecting liver flukes requires a fecal sedimentation test employing the Baermann technique, as they can’t be identified through a regular fecal test.
External parasites like blood-sucking lice, ticks, and fleas can also lead to anemia. However, their blood loss impact is notably lower compared to that induced by internal parasites, except for cases of anaplasmosis.
Although anaplasmosis isn’t the typical cause of anemia in goats, it’s becoming more prevalent in certain areas of the United States as an external parasite-related anemia issue. This condition spreads through insects (ticks, fleas, biting flies) that transmit the infection between infected and susceptible goats. Symptoms are generalized and encompass heightened sensitivity to stress, as well as overall lethargy that can escalate into weakness. The parasite, Anaplasma ovis, can also result in abortions.
Anaplasmosis leads to anemia by infiltrating and destroying red blood cells. Diagnosis is achieved through blood testing, and treatment entails using oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA 200 or equivalent). Infected goats should be isolated and treated individually. Given the challenges in eliminating the vectors (ticks, fleas, biting flies) carrying anaplasmosis, a recommended approach is treating the entire herd simultaneously. In larger herds, individual dosing for each goat is advised due to the impracticality of isolating each animal.
Employing fly bags and other insect control measures is strongly recommended for comprehensive management.
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Anemia is serious, but with knowledge comes confidence. And you can be a confident goat owner. Take the time needed for your goats to get the tools that will give you knowledge and therefore..confidence.
Anemia in goats caused by the Barberpole stomach worm is a serious concern that demands vigilance and proactive management. Recognizing the indicators, staying informed through education, and adopting targeted deworming practices are essential steps in safeguarding goats from the debilitating effects of anemia.
By understanding the complex interplay of parasites, goat raisers can better ensure the well-being and longevity of their animals, promoting a healthier and more robust goat population.