If you get 10 farmers together in a room, they will tell you 10 different ways to take care of the same animal. But it does seem like llama owners agree on one thing: you have to treat your llama for meningeal worms.
What are meningeal worms?
Meningeal worms, also called brain worms or deer worms, are nematodes, small worms (mostly microscopic) that are ubiquitous throughout earth (even plants get worms). Meningeal worms infect the central nervous system of animals causing inflammation and disease.
Once an animal has been infected, they show various symptoms depending on where the infection occurs. Typical symptoms include muscle weakness, arched neck, paralysis, blindness and eventually, death.
A complicated life for a little worm
The worm life cycle that leads to infection of a llama is very circuitous.
Meningeal worms primarily live in the meninges of whitetailed deer where they rarely cause disease. The adult worms lay eggs which are released and carried to the lung, where they hatch into firststage larvae. The deer cough the larvae up, swallow them and expel them out of the body when they poop. The larvae are then eaten by snails and slugs.
The larvae reside within the snail/slug for about a month, during which time they develop into infective third stage larvae. Other animals (like llamas) eat the snails/slugs while grazing and the larvae are released into the digestive tract. From the gut they migrate up the spinal chord and wander around the central nervous system wreaking havoc.
How to avoid brain worms (in your llama)
Since the worm’s lifestyle is so complicated, there are different areas you can target to prevent infection of your llamas. First, you should try to keep your llamas away from whitetailed deer. If you can, use deer-proof fence around your pasture. This can be difficult though as it will need to be at least 12 feet tall. Second, keep your llamas away from snails and slugs. Many snails and slugs prefer damp areas. Don’t allow your llamas to graze in wet, low-lying areas. Keep compost, wet leaf piles and rotting wood out of the pasture. Fence off wet and swampy areas of the pasture. Use nature’s bug eaters and allow your chickens to free range in the pasture to eat up the slugs/snails.
In addition, the recommended prophylactic treatment for worms is monthly worming with Ivermectin. Despite a potential for other worms to develop a resistance to the worming meds, meningeal worms are so lethal that it is better to treat your llama often with a good worming medication. 0.3 mg of Ivermectin/kg of animal should do the trick. Worming may not be required for a couple of winter months in some areas where it is too cold for the worms to survive outside of a host, but it is still recommended as a monthly treatment.
So watch out for these little guys and keep your llamas healthy.
Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge! My theme for this year: Llama mama. M for Meningeal worms.
Photo courtesy of snickclunk.