A 12-Month Survey of Gastrointestinal Helminth Infections of Cervids Kept in Two Zoos in Belgium

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2005
Authors:Goossens, E, Vercruysse, J, Boomker, J, Vercammen, F, Dorny, P
Journal:Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Date Published:2005
ISBN Number:10427260
Keywords:Cervus elaphus

Infections with helminths are a major health issue in captive and wild deer. In this study, fecal egg count patterns and clinical signs associated with gastrointestinal nematodes were assessed for 12 mo in nine cervid herds kept under different husbandry conditions at two sites. At site 1, an urban zoo, fecal egg counts remained low and no clinical signs of parasitic gastroenteritis were seen in the herds of fallow deer (Dama dama), Dybowski's deer (Cervus nippon dybowski), pudu (Pudu pudu), and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus). Helminth infection at this site may have been successfully prevented by daily dung removal of the small sandy-soil enclosures, and applying routine anthelmintic treatment was not justified. At site 2, a wild animal park, involved species were red deer (Cervus elaphus hippelaphus), Nelson's elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni), Père David's deer (Elaphurus davidianus), European elk (Alces alces alces), and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus). Nematode eggs were frequently encountered in herds of red deer, Nelson's elk, and European elk, which were kept on larger, grassy enclosures that were irregularly cleaned. The trimodal pattern of fecal egg counts in herds from the wild animal park, consisting of a small spring rise in June, a peak in October, and a small rise in February, indicates that infective larvae on pastures are the main source of infection. In addition, routine anthelmintic treatment with fenbendazole in April and July limited egg shedding, but reinfection rapidly occurred. In two European elk and one reindeer, increasing fecal egg counts were associated with loss of fecal consistency and reduced appetite. Three genera and three species of nematodes were recovered at necropsy of one red deer and three Nelson's elk: Spiculopteragia spiculoptera, Trichostrongylus spp., Nematodirus filicollis, Capillaria spp., Oesophagostomum radiatum, and Trichuris spp., with total worm counts between 950 and 8,700.

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