The importance of treating parasites

As organisms that survive by feeding off hosts, parasites can result in disease and sometimes even death if left untreated. Learning how to recognise and treat parasites in your livestock is crucial in ensuring their ongoing health – so let’s take you through what you need to know.


Identifying parasites

Parasites fall into two distinct categories: internal parasites that live inside the body, and external parasites that live outside the body. Here we’ll take a closer look at both.


Internal parasites

This form of parasite is one that lives inside an animal’s body and literally feeds off it in order to survive. The most common forms of internal parasites in livestock include:

  • A common parasite of the digestive tract, absorbing nutrients from the host and often causing damage to the gut. Animals with severe roundworm infestation can often lose weight, becoming dull in appearance, and show signs of diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Animals infected with tapeworms may show signs of abdominal discomfort, along with vomiting and convulsions. Any form of licking or attempts to scratch or soothe the anal area should be monitored, as this could be a symptom of tapeworm infestation, due to extreme itchiness.
  • Another common internal parasite, one often resulting in severe anaemia and diarrhoea. Animals may lose weight to the point of emaciation, become weak, and die if left untreated.
  • Liver flukes. Caused by the transmission of liver fluke eggs through manure in wet areas, with eggs hatching and larvae developing. Infected animals will show signs of acute liver disease, which could become chronic if left untreated.
  • A parasite causing intestinal disease in young animals, and manifesting in diarrhoea.


External parasites

As the name suggests, external parasites live on the skin of animals, and can range in severity from simply being a nuisance to creating large wounds, causing eye irritation and damage, bacterial infection, disease, and even death. The most common external parasites include:

  • Ticks. Usually active during warm and wet seasons, ticks suck blood from animals, leading to weakness, blood loss, skin damage, infection and sometimes even paralysis too. In livestock, ticks can affect milk and meat production, ultimately impacting profitability.
  • Biting flies such as horseflies, mosquitos, tsetse flies and black flies bite and suck blood from their hosts, spreading disease and causing blood loss. Other flies such as blowflies and screw-worm flies lay their eggs on animal hosts, which hatch into larvae and cause injuries which can become infected, leading to severe wounds and sometimes even death.
  • A common parasite among animals, fleas attach themselves to hosts where they feed on blood and lay eggs, and can cause ulcers and even spread to other animals if left untreated.
  • Ear mites. These live in the ears of animals, as the name suggests, and are highly contagious, spreading by direct contact and causing ear irritation, hair loss, blood blisters, and crusted rashes and discharge.
  • Keds and mites. Also known as sheep ticks, keds are flies that feed on blood, transferring between animals through direct contact and causing irritation and skin damage – particularly problematic in sheep, where the wool is discoloured and damaged. Mites are invisible to the human eye, and cause irritation on the skin which can lead to mange.
  • Lice infestation is common among animals, and is spread through direct contact. While lice cause irritation and skin damage, they do not result in disease.

How to manage parasites before they become problematic

There are a number of effective treatments for internal and external parasites, prevention is key in managing parasitic infection, and controlling the spread of parasites throughout a household or herd.

Treatment of parasites

While prevention is important, treatment of parasites is even more crucial to avoid their spread to other animals. For this reason, the following treatments are recommended:

Internal parasites:

  • Deworming solutions are vital in the treatment of internal parasites in order to prevent not just infection, but in the case of livestock, significant economic loss as well. It is also recommended to change your deworming treatment every two years, to avoid any potential resistance to the treatment.

External parasites:

  • For the control of flies, ticks, mites, keds, lice and more, spraying and dipping with insecticides is recommended for effective treatment, as is the application of topical medication. In some cases, pour-ons, spot treatments or injectable drugs may also be successful in eradicating parasitic infection, with any and all wounds caused by parasites to be treated at the same time.

The repercussions of leaving parasites untreated

While leaving parasites untreated can lead to both disease and death, there are even further adverse effects that need to be considered. In livestock, failure to treat parasites can have a significantly negative impact on profitability, with reduced production of wool, milk and meat, as well as impaired health, growth, and reproduction as well.


For these reasons, treating parasitic infection as soon as it becomes evident is of paramount importance.


Treating parasites with Mooivet

 As stockists of dewormers, dips, and other parasite control products, Mooivet offers a range of highly effective, economical and easy-to-use treatments. Contact us today to discuss the best solution for your parasite problem.



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