What is “Sheep Measles”?
It’s the common name given to lesions in sheep and goats caused by Cysticercus ovis, the cystic or intermediate stage of the tapeworm Taenia ovis. They are seen as hard white cysts either on the surface or deep in muscle tissue. Dogs act as host for the tapeworm.
Why is Sheep Measles important?
While sheep measles does not infect or cause disease in humans, they are considered defects and aesthetically undesirable by local and overseas customers. In addition each year farmers suffer financial loss as a result of lambs being condemned or downgraded for sheep measles.
How is the infection spread?
Dogs become infected by eating raw sheep or goat meat, including the heart, infected with live cysts. A tapeworm develops in the intestine of the dog in approximately 35 days. Infected dogs pass many thousands of eggs in their faeces contaminating pasture grazed by sheep and goats.
What has this got to do with me?
Anyone taking dogs onto sheep pasture has a responsibility to ensure their dogs are not spreading sheep measles and contaminating pasture. Ensure that you pick up any faeces from your dog to prevent the risk of spreading sheep measles.
How can I stop the spread of Sheep Measles?
Freeze any sheep or goat meat fed to dogs (-10c for 10 days) or cook meat thoroughly before feeding to dogs, this will destroy any cysts. All offal should be cooked thoroughly or frozen the same as meat before feeding to dogs.
Dose any dogs going onto sheep pasture to break the life cycle. Dogs should be treated with cestocidal drugs containing the ingredient Praziquantel which kills any tapeworms present. Most tablets such as Drontal, Droncit and Endogard contain 50gms of Praziquantel. This allows one tablet per 20kg of dog body weight. Milbemax tablets depend on dog sizes, Wormicide tablets contain 100gms of Praziquantel allowing one tablet per 40kg of dog body weight. Packet labels should be read to ensure correct dose rates are used.
I have just bought a new dog, what should I do?
Treating your dog with an All Wormer such as Drontal, Milbemax or Endogard will ensure it is kept healthy. If your dog is likely to be visiting sheep properties then monthly dosing is recommended so that your dog is free of tapeworms that cause sheep measles.
I buy all my dog food from a retailer/supermarket is this ok?
Dog biscuits and dog roll (because it has been through a cooking process) are safe as are dry meal and tinned foods. Any sheep off-cuts from the butchery cannot be guaranteed free from C.ovis. This meat should be frozen or cooked before feeding to dogs.
What meats can be safely fed to a dog raw?
Meat from horses, rabbits and possums can be fed raw.
Beef / Cattle Meat should be cooked thoroughly or frozen at -10°c for 10 days in order to reduce the spread of Neospora.
I thought having my dog dosed with an All Wormer was enough?
An all wormer such as Drontal, Milbemax or Endogard protects your dog for 3 months for most worms however the sheep measles tapeworm matures in 35 days. If your dog is going onto sheep pasture on a regular basis it should be treated more often using straight praziquantel tablet such as Droncit or Wormicide. The cost of the straight praziquantel tablets may vary depending on location but is around $1- $2.
Where can dog treatment drugs be purchased?
Most rural veterinary practices sell worming tablets and many provide a service-mailing out tablets to farmers. Animal health advisors, rural livestock firms as well as some local councils also provide tablets.
I don’t go out to farmland very often should I be dosing monthly?
If you only take your dogs to or near sheep pastures occasionally one option is to dose the dog at least 48 hours before going out and no longer than 4 weeks beforehand to ensure they are sheep measles free. Many Farmers now have a Dog Treatment policy “No evidence of treatment – No access to Property”.
Are there health risks associated with eating sheep measles cysts?
There are no risks to your health if you eat a cyst. It only affects dogs.
How long do cysts live in the meat of the sheep?
Most cysts die in the animal after around 3 months but some survive longer. The cysts which die either calcify or are absorbed by the animal.
Can you tell if your dog is carrying a tapeworm?
There are no outward signs that your dog has a tapeworm.
I have seen “Restricted Dog Entry” signs on farm gates and near public access ways, what do they mean?
The farm does not want foreign dogs entering to protect against sheep measles. If the sign is along a walking track or roadway. Please ensure that you pick up any faeces from your dog to stop the risk of spreading sheep measles.
I have noticed a squigglerly code on the “Restricted Dog Entry” sign. What’s that about?
This is a QR code. If you have a smart phone with a QR Reader (they are a free app) scan the QR code you will be taken to the Ovis Management webpage where you can read about sheep measles.