Large animal vet Justin Schooth.
Large animal vet Justin Schooth. Renee Pilcher

Dog bug a threat to cattle

A PARASITE linked to dogs and responsible for $30 million in losses to the cattle industry every year is now endemic to Australia and could be affecting local wildlife.

Gympie large animal vet Justin Schooth says the parasite neospora caninum had been active in the Gympie region for decades, though unreliable testing methods meant cattle here were not tested for many years, until recently.

Gympie Vet Services began testing for it again two to three years ago when reliable testing became available, and it shows up regularly in investigations into the cause of abortions in cattle, Dr Schooth said.

New findings published in the latest edition of Veterinary Parasitology show that, contrary to earlier opinion, dog populations other than just domestic dogs are infected with the parasite.

There is no vaccination.

Dr Schooth said controlling the impact of the parasite came down to herd management; something that cattle owners should discuss with their vet.

Gympie vet Lachlan Campbell completed his Honours research project on neospora caninum and returns from the United Kingdom in July, Dr Schooth said.

"The research also raises crucial questions about which other domestic and native animals could be affected by the parasite," said Jan Slapete, the lead author of the study.

Neospora caninum is passed from dogs to cattle and is carried in a dormant state in cows. When the cow becomes pregnant the parasite becomes active and can cause an abortion.

Dogs become hosts to the parasite after eating infected food.

The presence of the parasite in wild dogs means neospora caninum has a previously unrecognised ability to infect native wildlife.

Gympie Times

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