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Dealing with Barber Pole Worms

| 1/2/2019 10:07:00 AM


What are barber pole worms?

If you have sheep or goats, then you need to be aware of barber pole worms and be prepared to treat them.  Barber pole worms are an internal parasite that can very quickly infect a host and become fatal.

Barber pole worms live in the lining of the stomach in small ruminants such as sheep and goats.  They get their name from the striped appearance on the body that resembles an old-fashioned red and white striped barber's pole.  These are no pleasant parasites, however.

Barber pole worms use a small tooth to slice open the lining of the stomach.  This causes the animal to bleed, allowing the worm to feed.  Barber pole worms are different than other internal parasites.  They don't consume the food or the tissues of the animal.  They consume the blood of the animal.  In order to feed, they continually cut the tissues of the stomach to release blood.

Barber pole worms continue the blood letting and feeding until they are either eradicated or they kill the host.

Detecting barber pole worm infestations

Barber pole worms will feed on the blood of the animal so much that they can cause anemia in the animal.  The easiest way to check for barber pole worms is to check the animal periodically for anemia.  Goat producers in South Africa created a simple test that can be done quickly by sheep and goat producers to check animals for anemia and ultimately, barber pole worms.  This simple test is called the FAMACHA test.

The FAMACHA test uses a score card that is numbered 1-5 and has colored swatches.  The card is compared to the inner eyelid of the animal.  Animals that are extremely anemic will have pale eyelid membranes and will match the lighter colored shades (4 or 5) on the FAMACHA card.  Animals that are not anemic will have dark pink or red eyelid membranes and will score low (1 or 2) on the FAMACHA scorecard. 

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