Tick-borne diseases in goats and sheep

These diseases are spread between animals by the bite of an infected tick – and animals must be treated quickly to prevent death.

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Last week we looked at how to identify heartwater in goats and sheep. When it comes to treatment and prevention, the same basic rules apply to other tick-borne diseases:


  • Treat animals quickly as soon as signs of disease are noted, or they may die.
  • Follow the directions on the labels of drugs carefully, otherwise the drug won’t work properly, or can harm the animal.
  • If you aren’t sure which disease the animal has, seek advice from a vet.Some of the drugs prescribed for treatment can only be given by a vet.
  • If in doubt, and you can’t get help from your vet quickly, a combination of tetracycline and diminazene aceturate will help.


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  • Ways of preventing and controlling tick-borne diseases vary in different areas. Ask your animal-health technician or vet for advice about the methods used in your area.
  • Animals that are exposed to the parasites at a young age develop natural immunity in areas where the diseases occur. What’s called “strategic tick control” is good, as it prevents ticks becoming a nuisance, but allows enough ticks to remain on the animal for infection to occur at an early age, so that the animals become protected against diseases.
  • Dipping or spraying can reduce the risk of disease.

Avoiding confusion
The nervous signs seen with Asiatic redwater and heartwater can be the same. And some signs can look like rabies. The fluid in the lungs in the case of heartwater can be mistaken for poisoning, or other diseases, such as pulpy kidney and bluetongue.

Heartwater vaccine must be used carefully as it contains live parasites and can cause disease and even death if the animals aren’t treated in time. Pregnant animals shouldn’t be vaccinated, as abortion may occur.

Source: Animal Health for Developing Farmers, from the ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute.
For more information call 012 529 9158.