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Sheep measles cause condemnations

Sheep for slaughter (and hence for anything) are bringing very good prices at present. According to experts, this is likely to continue for some time.

These high prices have resulted in some producers receiving some very expensive condemnations at works because of “sheep measles”.

This in turn has caused producers to take a sudden interest (at $90.00 to $100.00 plus, who wouldn’t be interested!!) in how to get rid of the problem.

“Sheep measles” is the term used to describe the cyst (called Cysticercus ovis) caused by the larval stages of a tapeworm (Taenia ovis) found in dogs.

The dog has the adult tapeworm, the sheep eats the tapeworm eggs scattered on the pastures in the dung of the dog.

These hatch into larvae which encyst in various muscles inside the sheep, leading to mandatory exclusion from export markets if any are found, and from domestic markets if more than a small number. The cysts are then eaten by dogs predating on the sheep or being fed uncooked offal from infected sheep. The tapeworm eggs are very hardy and will survive for long periods.

Key control considerations:

  • Once the sheep has the cysts you cannot get rid of them from the body of the sheep;
  • Control requires killing the tapeworms in the dog by regularly dosing the dog with a drug called praziquantel (found in most common dog wormers – but check the fine print);
  • Dogs should be dosed at no less than 6 weekly intervals;
  • Do not feed dogs on uncooked offal from sheep or other animals;
  • Treat all dogs on the property.

If you follow the above management measures, you will also protect your family and others from hydatid disease which has a similar life cycle.