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Internal Parasites: Detect, Diagnose & Destroy These Debilitating Enemies

By Miriah Reynolds

Dairy goats are extremely susceptible to parasites, and it is a goat owner’s responsibility to identify the symptoms of a “wormy” goat and treat them. Deworming is a task that should be carefully administered and monitored for the health of domesticated goats worldwide. The first step towards keeping a goat herd healthy and parasite free, is to recognize the symptoms of a parasite infestation.


Detecting the symptoms of a parasite-infested goat is crucial. Certain types of parasites or worms will often show specific symptoms that another type will not.

  • Going off feed: Dairy goats love to eat, and since they are ruminants they are designed to eat roughage most of the day. When a goat goes off feed, they normally have a very high parasite problem. An infestation of worms in the goat’s body will cause their stomach to appear “bloated” (in some animals), making them feel sick to their stomach and “full.”
  • Continuous eating and weight loss: Contrary to going off feed, I’ve had some does that will eat as if they were starving and lose weight at a sickening rate.
  • Diarrhea: Diarrhea or any loose/abnormal stool is often caused from internal parasites. Make sure to get fluids into the affected animal ASAP, as they can become dehydrated quickly.
  • Overall rough appearance: The general appearance of an infested animal is unmistakable. A smooth conditioned coat will turn wiry and rough.
  • Unhealthy eyelids and gums: An infestation of parasites will cause the goat to become lethargic and anemic. A good way to tell is to look at the skin around the eyes. It should be a healthy pink color; often an infested animal will have gray/white mucous membranes.
  • Another area that is easier to see is their gums. The easiest way I have found to check the gums is to straddle the goat’s front end as if going for a ride. Do not actually put weight on the goat, but pull its neck and face up, and open the mouth that way. Put a finger on the gum for a second or two and release. See how quickly the blood returns and what color the gum is.
  • Visible parasites in stool: The most obvious sign that a goat has worms is if they are visible in the manure. By taking notice of the goats’ manure frequently, it is possible to determine the type of parasite by examining their stool.

These symptoms of internal parasites may vary depending on the type of parasite infestation and the individual animal. Please be sure to consult a veterinarian for further examination.

Coolotta was always “wormy.” Note the rough condition and weight loss.
Coolotta is a healthy doe, but when she was younger she seemed to be wormy
more frequently than the other does.

Types of worms

Knowing what type of worm is infesting the goat herd will make choosing the type of de-wormer needed easier.

One year for Christmas, when I was about 12 years old, my parents bought me a large-screen microscope to examine my goat’s feces for effective de-worming. When I saw parasites in the manure, I’d get so excited because I could use my microscope. (Weird I know, but I guess that’s part of the reason I want to be a veterinarian.)

I’d gently spread the stool on the clear slide and mush it under the magnifier. Situated at the kitchen table, I’d whip out my Merck Veterinary Manual and determine the type of worm.

Once I had seen the parasites enlarged, it was easier to identify them without the microscope. Some of the different types of worms common in dairy goats I discovered included the following:

  • Roundworms (Ascarids): According to Keeping Livestock Healthy, roundworms can lay up to a quarter of a million eggs a day! These larvae make their way into the liver through the blood stream. Once in the liver they travel in the bloodstream up towards the lungs and bronchi. Eventually, they are coughed up and swallowed. Normally they end up in the small intestine where they reach maturity. Most of the symptoms are seen with roundworms, and a “pot belly” is very common.
  • Strongyles (Bloodworms): Bloodworms are just as their name implies, they are bloodsuckers and can do severe damage to the intestinal wall if left untreated. Stronglyes are found everywhere from blades of grass to the walls of our barns. They hang out and wait to be ingested. Once eaten, they head for the large intestine and penetrate the wall. Eventually they will be in the main artery supplying blood to the intestines. Because they travel and lay eggs in the arteries, they can restrict blood flow and cause severe anemia.
  • Lungworms: Symptoms for lungworms are slightly different than the other worms. Infected animals have a severe cough and unhealthy lung sounds. Unlike many parasites that pass through the lungs for growth, lungworms continually live and lay eggs in the lungs. When the eggs are laid they are sent through the digestive tract and end up in the manure, awaiting another host to ingest them to repeat the cycle. The signs of lung worms can often times be mistaken for a “cold” or build up of mucus in the lungs. If these signs are present, treat the animal.
  • Liver flukes: Liver flukes are a flat worm that live in the liver and dine on blood. Liver fluke outbreaks are more common in areas that are damp and moist. These parasites are harder to treat because they are specifically in the liver and can do severe damage quickly. Be sure to use a drug targeting liver flukes if the animal is infected.
  • Pinworms: Signs for pinworms include scratching their butt and visible worms around the anus. I have found that Fenbendazole works to kill them, but also washing the anus with warm water and a touch of Ajax dish soap works to relieve the immediate itch. After washing the anus, applying some petroleum jelly or Vaseline to the area is comforting to the goat and also suffocates the pinworms.


There are numerous dewormers on the market.
There are numerous dewormers on the

After determining a goat has internal parasites, it is time to treat her. If one goat is infested, nine times out of 10 they all have worms. This is because they share the same barn, browse in the same pasture, and share feed/water buckets.

There are hundreds of different types of de-wormers on the market today—herbal, pastes, injectable, and pellets. One thing to remember when choosing a de-wormer is the type of parasite to be treated. Choosing a de-wormer is based on personal preference of administered method. Each method requires a certain period of time to dump milk or withhold from slaughtering. Some are all right for pregnant does while others are not. Always read everything on the packaging for best results. Keep in mind that a parasite infestation will disrupt the bacteria and enzymes in a healthy rumen. Administering de-wormer will also upset the bacteria in the digestive tract, so I like to give probiotics about six hours after giving the de-wormer. There are many types of de-wormers available:

  • Fenbendazole: Given orally. Safe Guard and Panacur are the two major brand names for this de-wormer. Fenbendazole comes in a syringe-type paste or in a liquid, specifically for goats. The paste syringe has markings on the tube to regulate the amount administered per body weight. The liquid will need to be measured out with a needleless syringe. I personally like the Safe Guard liquid specific to goats because it contains 10% Fenbendazole, which helps keep the good bacteria in the gut alive. The dosage for the liquid is 2.3 ml per 100 pounds of body weight. I use a 3cc syringe (a cc is the same as a ml) and fill it completely with de-wormer, because they normally spit some out.
  • Ivermectin: Injection. Ivomec and Noromectrin brands are an injectable Ivermectin that works wonders. My mother switched to this method rather than orally because we had better results. The injectable contains 1% Ivermectin, which is an antiparasitic avermectin. It is administered subcutaneously through the skin. The dosage is 1ml/cc for every 110 pounds of body weight for the Ivomec brand. This injectable Ivermectin also treats lice and mange mites on the outside of the animal. We have found that it works faster than the oral pastes and the time between de-worming is longer. Milk does need to be dumped for about 72 hours after administering the proper dose.
  • Herbal: Herbal de-wormers are normally administered orally and are great for organic farms. After doing some research I have found that most brands do not require milk withdrawal time, but read the label to make sure. Most herbal de-wormers are fed all year round. I have not used herbal de-wormers, so I have no experience to share.
  • Pelleted wormer: Oral. Safe Guard makes a pelleted de-wormer that I have heard great reviews for. It is an alfalfa-based pellet with Fenbendazole. The amount of pellets to feed vary, depending on the weight of the animal and how infested they are.

I personally like the injectable de-wormer for the quick results and how infrequently it needs to be administered. Secondly, I like the Safe Guard oral liquid Fenbendazole, because it is easy on the rumen bacteria and kills a broad spectrum of parasites. I’d be nervous giving the pellets or the herbal because if they go off feed, the chances of them eating the wormer are slim. By orally administering or injecting the wormer, I am confident in the fact that they were treated. Three days after I have wormed my goats with an oral de-wormer, I like to treat them again with the same dose. (Again, read the package instructions.) I want to kill all the stages in the parasites’ growth cycle. To prevent worms from becoming immune to a wormer, it is a good idea to switch de-wormers often.


The best way to prevent worms is to keep barn areas clean and manure away from animals. Pasture rotation is effective as well, because infected animals will poop out the worms onto the ground and later come back and eat off that area, repeating infestation. Provide grain and minerals in clean buckets, off the ground. Hay should be offered in a rack off the barn floor.

A good de-worming schedule is part of keeping dairy goats healthy. Knowing the symptoms, types of worms, and how to treat them will ensure that goats are kept parasite free for optimum performance and health!

Merck Veterinary Manual, 10th edition, and Keeping Livestock Healthy are available from the Dairy Goat Journal Bookstore. Call 1-800-551-5691 to order a copy, or visit www.DairyGoatJournal.com.

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