Toxocara Vitulorum egg

I am passionate about the importance of linking improved production to animal health, feeding the animal for growth and not to fight off disease or infection. As such I thought I would mention one of the animal health related issues which came to light this month.

I was contacted by one of our reps as a customer was having some issues in his dairy cows – they were underperforming and scouring despite all nutritional avenues being investigated and his independent nutritionist had mentioned the possibility of rumen fluke being the problem. Rumen fluke is relatively rare in the UK, so I decided to talk to Mr Farmer to investigate the likelihood of it being the problem. It seemed very unlikely that this was the cause to his problems, as their land was dry, they had no access to steams and troughs were filled from mains, and they had never had an issue with liver fluke in the past (rumen fluke share the same intermediate host as liver fluke). I suggested we should do a faecal egg count (FEC) and he should speak to his vet about an Elisa for fluke.

I fully expected something to show up but not the results we got back. The FEC showed 550 epg for a parasite call Toxocara Vitulorum. T vitulorum is an ascarid nematode with a high prevalence of infection in water buffalo, cattle, and zebu in tropical and subtropical regions of the world but until recently hardly heard of in the UK.

With the results in mind and because this parasite is difficult to control, the larvae can migrate in the hosts tissues and trans mammary passage to calves occurs after birth, I decided it was important we tested the calves, the results came back showing they also had 800epg of Toxocara Vitulorum.

There is a high morbidity and mortality associated with calves of 15 to 50 days old so we decided treatment was essential in all calves suckled or fed whole milk. All the calves were given 7·5 mg/kg fenbendazole (Panacur) orally and the cows and in calf heifers were treated with a pour on Eprinomectin.

It is notable that the affected farm had no known imported cattle. The source of infection has not yet been established; possible sources include purchased cattle or spread on fomites of faeces from unidentified infected animals.

T vitulorum has a very different epidemiological pattern to the current endemic nematode parasites of British cattle and necessitates specific control measures once it has become established in a herd. In this case, it is intended to retest again in 14 days and all calves between 10 and 16 days of age will be treated with anthelmintic in future with dairy cows and heifers to be tested routinely, to reduce the prevalence of infection and reduce likely production losses.

Sally Cornforth R-SQP

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