Farmers are being urged to correctly worm farm dogs to help sheep reach target specifications and reduce the number of carcass rejections from processors.

The warning comes amid growing concerns from processors about the impact of parasitic tapeworm infections spread by dogs. In 2012, almost £5m was lost due to sheep measles found in 66,500 sheep, while more than £1m was lost as 742,000 livers were rejected because of bladder worms.

Infected dogs can spread these two common parasitic infections when they shed eggs in their faeces on pasture which is then ingested.

Sheep measles results when the eggs develop into cysts around the heart, diaphragm and cheek muscles. Measles can only be identified after slaughter and often results in rejection of the entire carcass.

Preventative measures for farmers:

  • Routinely worm farm dogs at the correct dose with a product specifically for tapeworms
  • Ensure visiting dogs are also routinely wormed against tapeworm or prevented from accessing sheep grazing areas
  • Promptly remove all deadstock carcass to avoid scavenging
  • Consider fencing off public footpaths to keep other dogs off sheep grazing

Bladder worms occurs when the eggs hatch in the intestines and then spread to tissues around the abdominal organs and liver. Infestation can lead to liver rejections and loss of value due to sheep not reaching target specification.

Tapeworm eggs can survive on grass for up to six months. Once a sheep is exposed, it is impossible to prevent the cysts developing so avoiding exposure is essential, explains Phil Hadley, EBLEX southern senior regional manager. “Producers can also succumb to its effects with the potential loss in livestock values by not reaching target specification.

“Correct routine worming procedures are imperative in helping the sector combat the financial health and health impact of parasite infections,” he says.

AHVLA vet Siân Mitchell warns farmers must ensure they’re using the correct wormer to treat farm dogs every six weeks, or as advised by their vet. “Only praziquantel is effective against the tapeworms discussed above,” she adds.

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