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Whip Worm in Alpacas and Llamas

QUESTION: There is a lot of dialogue of late regarding whipworm in camelids and control of manure. Some say whipworm is not species-specific and others say that it is. The issue mostly revolves around potential exposure by camelids to canine or cat feces infected or potentially infected and vice versa. Since there appears to be more than one opinion, I was hoping you could assist in shedding some light on the subject that I could share. Are there animal-specific species of whipworms?

ANSWER: Whipworms (Trichuris sp.) are somewhat species-specific. For example, camelids are not susceptible to canine (T vulpis) or swine (T suis) whipworm infection, but most certainly are susceptible to whipworms from cattle/sheep/goats (e.g. T ovis and of cattle is T discolor).

Thus, there are species barriers when the difference is great enough. Trichuris species specifically identified in camels include T globulosa, T cameli, and T skrjabini. The main Trichuris of SA Camelids seems to be T ovis, the sheep whip, but T tenuis has been identified.

The eggs survive on pasture for years through extremes of temperatures. Thus, clinical infestations are often most severe after a drought because the other “competing” parasites have died away leaving only the infective whips.

These worms are hard to treat. I prefer fenbendazole at 20 mg/kg body weight for a minimum of 3 and preferably 5 days in a row. Re-treatment is advisable in 6 to 8 weeks because rapid re-infection is common!

David E Anderson, DVM, MS (originally published August 2002)

International Camelid Institute

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