Bottle Jaw – What You Need To Know

Bottle jaw is the vernacular term given to pendulous lower jaw swelling in sheep, cattle and goats.
The swelling is a soft tissue edema cause by anemia. It is characteristic in animals that are carrying a heavy load of blood sucking internal parasites – better known as worms.

A Bottle jaw

A Bottle Jaw In A Young Ram

Most often in sheep and gaots, the worms are haemonchus contortus often called “barber pole worms” because of the red and white twisted appearance in large female worms. But other worms, namely ostertagia circumcinta  and trichostrongylus colubriformis can also cause a bottle jaw.
What you need to know about bottle jaw is that if you see it in your animals you have a serious problem and must act quickly.
That’s especially true in sheep because most often the first sign of a heavy intestinal parasite load is a sudden death.

Death Due To Worms

A Sudden Death In A Nursing Ewe Due To Barber Pole Worms

In sheep, cattle and goats the symptoms of worms can also include diarrhea, weakness, weight loss or thriftiness. All or none of those symptoms will sometimes also accompany a bottle jaw. The best test for worms
in sheep and goats is the correct use of a FAMACHA card system. 

FAMACHA score cards are usually available from your veterinarian for about $25.

The treatment for most common worms is simple.
First check around to see what wormers work in your local area. Internal parasites can and do develop drug resistance.
Here’s what I do:

  1. First administer a wormer.
  2. Confine the animals for 24 hours after worming so they can pass out the dead worms. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water.
  3. Release the animals onto clean ground or pasture that has had no livestock for at least 2 months.
  4. Repeat again in 10 days.

At present in my area Cydectin or Ivermectin are effective by injection, drench or pour on. I believe both wormers are off label for goats but are still used. Eprinex, Dectomax, Prohibit, Rumatel, Nematel, Strongid, Tramisol and Valbazen are all good wormers (2013) but there may be drug resistance where you live. In my area there is drug resistance to Panacur and  SafeGuard.
Not all wormers are the same so be sure to read the label and pay attention to the milk and meat withdrawal times.

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