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Endoparasites - Diagnosis

The veterinarian diagnoses most endoparasite infections by identifying the eggs or larvae in sheep faeces. Several exceptions exist to this general rule; in these infections no evidence is usually present in the faeces. This is particularly a problem if the immature stages are damaging to the sheep before becoming egg-laying adults; two examples of this are infections with Nematodirus and Haemonchus.

The major types of parasite eggs and larvae which may be present in sheep faeces includes:




The eggs of this species are barrel-shaped, with a clear plug at each end. They may be differentiated on the basis of size; Trichuris eggs are about 75 microns long (fig 1).


The lungworm (Dictyocaulus, Muellerius and Protostrongylus) lay eggs that hatch in the airways. The larvae are coughed up and swallowed; larvae may often be found in both the faeces and the nasal mucus. The larvae may be differentiated by their microscopic anatomy.

Strongyle-type eggs

"Strongyle-type" eggs are laid by many important ovine nematodes, including the abomasul worms (Haemonchus, Ostertagia and Trichostrongylus). These eggs are elliptical or oval, with smooth, thin shells. When laid, the eggs have already begun to develop and are called "segmented" because the inner mass has split into a group of cells. Nematodirus eggs are the largest strongyle-type eggs, but eggs of the species in the group cannot usually be identified precisely. Species determination can be made by identifying adult worms at necropsy or by culturing the eggs in faeces until the distinctive larvae hatch (fig 2).




Tapeworms segments, or proglottids, filled with eggs can be found in the faeces. If the proglottids were damaged, individual eggs may be present. Moniezia segments look like cooked rice grains; the eggs of this cestode are square or triangular, and each contains a hexacanth larva (fig 4).




Fluke eggs are oval and have a smooth shell with a cap or operculum at one end. The damaging Fasciola lays eggs which are quite similar to those of Paramphistomum. Fasciola eggs have yellowish shells with indistinct opercula, whereas eggs of the rumen fluke are clear, with distinct opercula. Eggs of Dicrocoelium, the lancet fluke, are much smaller in size than those of the other flukes, and each lancet fluke egg contains a developed miracidium larva when passed in the faeces (fig 5).



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