Symptoms of Worms in Cattle

Worms are detrimental to the health of their hosts.
Worms are detrimental to the health of their hosts. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Worms are parasitic organisms that live inside people, pets and livestock, such as cattle. They benefit at the expense of their hosts and often cause debilitating problems. Common cattle worms include lungworms, intestinal brown worms, hookworms and tape worms. Symptoms depend on the type of worm.


Cattle are infected with lungworm when they graze on pasture that has been contaminated with lungworm larvae. The effect depends on the location of the lungworm larvae inside the respiratory tract and the number of larvae ingested. Lungworm larvae infiltrate the respiratory tract, where they develop. This leads to obstruction of the airways and a reduction in the immune system of the cattle. The reduction in immunity leads to secondary bacterial infection, and, if the infestation is severe, the cattle may die from severe intestinal emphysema.

Intestinal Brown Worms

Intestinal brown worms infect healthy cattle when previously infected cattle pass feces on grazing fields. The eggs of the intestinal worms hatch inside the manure, and rainfall washes the larvae from the feces onto the grass. Healthy cows swallow the larvae, and they migrate to the stomach lining, where they develop into adults. Intestinal worm infestation usually occurs during the rainy season. Infestation is compounded by unsanitary conditions, such as overcrowding and poor nutrition management with overgrazing. Intestinal brown worms cause protein deficiency in infected cattle. This is because the worm larvae interfere with the digestion process. Other symptoms are diarrhea and reduced appetite. Intestinal brown worm infestation also causes rough and dry hair coats and weight loss.

Cattle Hookworms

Cattle hookworms infect the animals when eggs inside infected feces develop into larvae. The larvae pierce the skin of cattle they comes into contact with and migrate to the lungs through the blood vessels. When the larvae reach the trachea, they are swallowed by the cattle into the intestine. Once the larvae reach the intestine, they attach themselves to the walls and start sucking blood. Hookworm infestation causes the cattle to have anemia due to blood loss.


Tapeworms also infect cattle cattle through ingestion of infected grass. The grass may be contaminated by the feces of other infected animals or humans. The feces contain the eggs or cyst of the tapeworms. When the cattle ingest infected grass, the tapeworms attach themselves to the wall of the small intestine and grow into adults. Symptoms of tapeworms in cattle include extended potbellies, diarrhea and a rough-looking hair coat.

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