There are these pests that are scary... others that only scare us once we've been around them and we see in real all their havoc.
This is my case for Barberpole worm which I remember reading the description a long time ago.
I had then found quite a "vampire" as worm and scary... but I put it very far in my head... because it could not happen to me, eh? We could not have the climate for a worm so scary and loving the warmth with our northern climate in Quebec... Oh, yes!
I will give you in this article all the info I found in less than a day (when in panic, I tried to save my 2nd male severely sick with any information i can find, what he had and how to cure it... then after his death to try to understand what was in my grasp to prevent it from happening again for the rest of my herd).
What is Barberpole worm?
The Barberpole worm is named because the female's uterus is a long, whitish tube that wraps around the worm, giving it the look of a "barber's sign".
Despite its peculiar look, it is very discreet; This round intestinal worm can measure up to 3 cm long, but you never see it.
It has a kind of tooth that allows it to chew and to cling to the surface of the stomach. This is what allows him to drink the blood of his hosts.
In large quantities, these worms can kill an animal fairly quickly, through severe anemia. Dazzling! Sometimes the worm does not have time to lay its eggs so the death of the host is fast in smaller weight animals!
A female worm can lay up to 10 000 eggs a day. It's huge.
It also KNOWS when a female is at the end of gestation... pastures where there are babies are often the most contaminated and young people are often the most symptomatic and the most affected by this parasite.
They may be present on a farm without necessarily being seen right away or that there is an infestation.
Thus, it is possible that they are walking from farm to farm, insidiously, worn by an alpaca or another farm animal that seems in perfect health.
In small quantities, they do not have enough effect to be aware of their presence (one can only confirm death by this worm by necropsy) and there are not always eggs in the stool either (the female worms feed several weeks before laying).
They attack all domestic animals, especially ruminants.
Since they cause many problems of productivity (one speaks of 10% less fibre in sheep and a weakness in the fibre in case of infestation... In addition to the disease and the risk of death!), it is desirable to get rid of them when they affect the health of our alpacas...
But it is still necessary to be careful to avoid increasing its resistance to deworming; Which is really not a thing won with this prolific worm that mutates easily!
What are the survival and proliferation conditions of the worm?
This worm proliferates especially in heat and humidity.
A dry time or frost decreases the number in the pastures (unlike other worms that it affects little); rude winter is therefore our main ally in Quebec now and it certainly explains why this worm may not be as much a sore as elsewhere in the world.
Those who survive our winters in pastures are not very numerous in the following spring and are less likely to have a real infestation by pastures.
On the other hand, it is known that this worm is able to interrupt its development at the larval stage and encyst in the tissues of the animal, allowing it to spend the winter warm and to resume its cycle just fine in the spring (or later); the recontamination of pastures can therefore be rapid.
Once encysted, the deworming have little effect on them!
Notorious; This parasite was detected in all Quebec breeders followed for a project of the CDAQ (Council for the Development of Agriculture of Quebec) in 2007. It is very common in Quebec as elsewhere in the world!
Grazing and the living environment
We are talking about a "clean" pasture (where there is more theoretically enough Barberpole worm to cause big damage):
♦ After 3 months of a hot, dry and animal-free pasture summer
♦ After 6 months of fall/winter
♦ In a burnt pasture
♦ After a field has been harvested
Ingestion of larvae is normally done in pastures, when the larvae rises on the tip of grass twigs. Each bite is therefore a potential source of parasitism.
Cemented soils are not a very favorable medium for eggs. On the other hand, they have an excellent survival rate in the soil... and it is ideal in peat moss (thanks to the percentage of moisture and aeration it provides)...!
Recognition and good practice
One of the fastest signs to recognize an alpaca infested with Barberpole is the colour of its mucous membranes (especially the membranes around the eye; not the skin, but the mucosa).
As this parasite feeds on blood, the resulting anemia will make these mucous membranes pale.
If they are almost white and we notice the other symptoms below, the chances of survival are very low! So you have to be very attentive to color changes to detect excessive interference in time! Sometimes it can be fast enough!
To properly recognize the stage of anemia, it is preferable to use a FAMACHA charter, although it requires some practice to be used effectively. This is what is strongly suggested in countries where the temperature is hotter and where the worm is more prolific.
This is one of the safest methods of detection to avoid increasing the resistance of this worm by unnecessary repeated drenches treatments.
We therefore only treat by anemia stage (+ coprologies if desired to confirm presence, because anemia is not symptom only of this worm) and special attention is paid to young subjects who are more easily infested.
Treating only problematic cases (moderate to very high) creates a "refuge" for the worm in animals that are not sensitive (and affected).
Eggs that are returned to pasture by these animals will create worms that are less resistant to deworming that can be given to more sensitive and highly infested animals.
Still need to detect it, detect it in time and keep control! It's a balancing game!
General symptoms of Barberpole:
♦ anemia (pale mucous membranes)
♦ "Bottle-jaw" (a edema by accumulation of fluid under the jaw)
♦ Weakness and lack of energy
♦ Diarrhea (in my 3 cases, one had diarrhea but the others had nice stools. Supposedly it is not so common for the Barberpole)
♦ No appetite
♦ Eggs in stool (not always the case, depending on infestation)
How to eliminate or decrease the incidence of Barberpole.. .
First, there are several ways to ensure that we do not encourage the establishment of Barberpoleworms...
♦ By rotation of pastures and keeping these rather dry
♦ By collecting litter contents regularly instead of going by accumulation (successive layers of manure and hay) that keep the moisture
♦ Avoiding peat moss litter or also keeping moisture and warmth (Moreover, it is in the peat moss that the researchers sometimes grow the worms, being an ideal medium for their survival!).
by the plants...
Studies show the consumption by animals of certain plants and natural elements that would help to decrease the eggs of the worm (sometimes up to 80%!), especially the ingestion of plants that have many tannins (such as legumes).
On the other hand, knowing that clover is a legume that often causes digestive problems if eaten in large quantities and that several natural elements can be toxic to alpacas, it would be necessary to do more research for this alternative in our Camelids...
For the curious, here is a study on the consumption of pine bark on butcher goats experimentally afflicted with the Barberpole Worm (English).
Resistance to Barberpole?
In goats and sheep, there are also cases of animals resistant to the effect of this worm.
This resistance would be genetically highly or moderately heritable. So in a herd, some may be more sensitive than others.
By selecting animals less susceptible to parasite as a stud, there is the possibility of reducing the influence of these pests on the life of the animal.
Maybe someday it will be an additional criterion of selection for the improvement of alpacas?
Of course, some chemically designed and more traditional deworming are used to kill Barberpole, such as Fenbendazole (Safeguard, Panacur) or Moxidectin (Cydectin) for more severe cases of infestation.
It must however (again!) be careful not to give too often these deworming not to create resistance and a complicated problem.
It is said that with Barberpole worm, this resistance to deworming on some farms is a very big problem, by the way!
A single dose of a fast-acting treatment (Fenbendazole, for example) can kill the worms present in animals.
On the other hand, if they still eat at pasture, they will quickly reinfect them because the drench is only active for 24h.
As it takes between 21 and 28 days for Barberpole worms to reach maturity, there is no recontamination to pasture, which is a positive point for reducing infestation.
Long-acting treatments, such asIvermectin or Moxidectin, on the other hand, will act for more than a week (according to different sources, between 2-4 weeks), protecting the herd for theoretically 4-8 weeks in total, Always considering the maturity of the Barberpole.
... hope for the future?
Supposedly there is a vaccine against the Barberpole approved in Australia for sheep... maybe with the alpacas also one day we will have protection!
Criagenesis'sarticle on Barberpole (English-Australia) is really a wealth of information!
Our history with the Barberpole
Two dead within a 10-day delay. That's what the Barberpole worms took from me.
Two young males of one year, grazing together and seeming healthy (energy, appetite, everything!) until the day before their death.
Hard to act in time!
When I realized the sick state of the first (Heisenberg), he showed signs of very serious anemia (white mucous membranes like milk), apathy, no appetite, quick breathing, tremors of weakness and he stayed lying (slightly sideways) most of the time.
Heisenberg had previously had very severe diarrhea in the previous weeks and in the last days of his life but it seemed "well" under circumstances.
He had lost a little weight that I attributed to his diarrhea. I had actually analyzed his stool without extraordinary results for the counting of eggs... result that I received the day before his death...
It was euthanized 24h after the onset of symptoms, given its alarming and advanced condition. He would probably have died in the night if he had not been euthanized.
The other three in the same pasture looked healthy; good appetit, normal stool. After this first death, I was also paying special attention to them.
I first thought of a Tapeworm for Heisenberg since I had many in my herd affected at that time (and it explained the diarrhea that had disappeared from my litters in the last 2-3 days of his life).
Nine days later, at the evening train, another young male of this herd, Dembe, had the same symptoms as Heisenberg, except that he had never had diarrhea before.
He also died very quickly in the next night, less than 12 hours after I see the majority of symptoms!
In rechecking the previous stools analysis, we finally noticed that there were Barberpole eggs in the batch of eggs counted...
Why I had an infestation of Barberpole
I probably don't hold all the keys to understand. But I have some leads that probably triggered and promoted these events...
♦ The heat and humidity of the summer 2018 has undoubtedly greatly helped the infestation in my pastures. Moreover, it is in the warmer and humid regions of the globe that there are the most infestations of Barberpole.
Difficult on the other hand to know exactly where the first eggs come from; Of an alpaca arrived here carrying a worm? Parasite that I had already in my beginnings in my pastures but in limited number? Everything is possible and it is a common pest in Quebec as I said above...
♦ I was trying a new peat moss litter, supposed to help stop the flies (which were in incalculable numbers during the summer!) while decreasing the odors and the presence of puddles of urine.
I believe that by settling a problem (litters), I created another because although peat moss decreases the growth of bacteria in litters because of its acidity... I read after the death of my 2nd alpaca that it is a perfect soil for the proliferation of barberpole ! 🙁
In this article, I tried to go around to describe this parasitic worm and how to restrict its appearance/eliminate it as much as possible.
In any case, get in touch with your veterinarian quickly if you have any suspicions about the health of your animals; Especially for cases like the Barberpole... it's fast and suddenly and the window is sometimes very short to treat!
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