Think Twice Before Deworming Your Goats

This may sound counter-intuitive, and you may be thinking, “well, if I’m worried there is a chance my goats have worms, why don’t I just give them a dewormer?” That question is very sensical, and I understand why many people can and will think like this. To clarify, this post is about the use of CHEMICAL DEWORMING METHODS. Do not confuse this with the regimens I recommend for natural deworming. With a natural approach, you surely do want to deworm even if there is only the slightest concern.

One of the most important things to know is how to identify symptoms of a “wormy goat.” A goat may have a parasite problem if:

  • They are skinny, underweight, or continuously losing weight
  • They have diarrhea or abnormal poop
  • They have anemia (*WITH CERTAIN WORMS ONLY*)
  • They are unthrifty
  • They have rough coats
  • They have little to no appetite
  • They show signs of weakness or lethargy

* And any other abnormalities in behavior or health.*

The first thing to remember is that each parasite will cause different symptoms in a goat. Some parasites may cause little to no external or obvious symptoms, yet can still affect the goat’s health internally or subtly.

The next important thing to remember is a rule of thumb that all goat owners MUST know: each parasite requires a different type/class of dewormer. There are many different dewormers out there—I could spend an entire blog post just listing a portion of them—and we can all agree that you must use the correct dewormer. Instead of doing a “swing and miss” or “try try again” approach, which means you are just guessing what worm(s) your goat has, get a fecal test done on your goats. Imagine the simplicity … rather than giving a (possibly harmful) chemical, and then another chemical after that (if it didn’t seem to work), you could know EXACTLY what worm your goat has and EXACTLY what dewormer to treat with.

Using the proper dewormer is also an important factor in dewormer efficacy. Nowadays, with the overuse of chemical dewormers, worms have built up resistances to dewormers. There is no guarantee that a dewormer will actually kill the worms you are dealing with, or reduce worm and egg counts at all. If you get a fecal test both before and after deworming, you will be able to check your dewormer’s efficacy and make sure it is treating the worms.

In case it isn’t clear, I am not a fan of guessing when it comes to deworming. I want to know what worms a goat has, what dewormer to treat them with, and if that dewormer worked. If I don’t know all of these facts, I cannot efficiently keep my goat(s) healthy.

Some situations can point to an obvious worm. Barberpole worms are known for causing anemia, and therefore some people use FAMACHA scoring as their form of a fecal test because they assume if their goat is anemic, it is Barberpole worm. And it likely is, however, there are still other causes for anemia, and you still want to know if your dewormer worked (Barberpole worms are most notoriously known for building resistances to chemical dewormers).

I have seen a situation in which a goat had been underweight for over a year, and had been treated with at least 3 different dewormers. When I offered assistance, my first thought was parasites. The goat had been treated multiple times with multiple dewormers and had never received a fecal test. That is what I call a dewormer overload. That is when you get a tangle of chemicals and you must unravel it to discover the real issue. What can you do in this situation? I’ll tell you. First, get a fecal test done. Next, once you know what worm you are dealing with, make sure to exclude from the treatment plan the dewormers that the goat has already received. The worms may be highly resistant, so speak with your vet about combination dewormers or stronger dewormers that have not yet been used. Or, as I always recommend, consider a natural approach. Natural deworming is often the last-ditch effort for most owners when their chemicals have not worked.

Then there is the situation that every goat owner dreads: a very ill goat. If worms go unnoticed, a goat can eventually become very weak and ill. Often when there are a plethora of worms in the system, you can have a goat with weight loss, anemia, and diarrhea, all in one! This is a BAD situation to be in, especially if you have no idea what parasites are causing the goat to be ill. In a situation where the goat’s life is immediately at risk, sometimes it is necessary to throw the “kitchen sink of dewormers” at them. However, before doing this it’s important to consult with a licensed professional, a goat mentor, or helpful online chat rooms. Getting a second opinion (especially a more experienced one) may help you to determine how to efficiently treat multiple worms at once.

So before you decide to deworm your goats on a whim, remember that each time you give a chemical incorrectly or unnecessarily, you are getting one step closer to i) causing dewormer resistances, ii) taking a toll out on your goat’s health, and iii) making the overall treatment of the problem more difficult. Next time you are concerned about your goat being wormy, grab a plastic bag and scoop up some poop, because a fecal tells you what you need to know! The most important takeaway from this blog post is to be cautious, calm, and to not rush into treatment before you have evaluated the whole situation. This goes for much more than dewormers, especially when it comes to rushing into antibiotics or other medications you may use when a goat is sick. Always consult with a vet, a mentor, and a friend—that’s what the goat community is here for.

If you don’t have a vet near you that can do fecal tests, or if that option is too costly, here are two mail-in labs. Sample prices are very reasonable and all you have to do is collect it and send it! I am in no way related to these labs, nor do I receive any commission from my recommendations of them. I am not responsible for any errors or issues relating to your use of these labs.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet, nor am I a licensed professional. I am in no way a “goat expert” and my opinions are only that of personal experiences, and my insights shared are not medical treatment suggestions, care suggestions, or any directions for raising goats at all. I am simply sharing my own personal opinions. Any and all changes to your goats’ health regimen, care, etc. should be approved by a veterinary professional or licensed professional. I also believe that every goat owner has their own way of doing things, so just as my opinions are my own, and cannot apply to anyone else, your opinions are also regarding your individual goats, and I welcome you to share them in a kind, constructive manner. Disclosure: This post may contain Amazon Affiliate Links, from which I will earn a commission.

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