Sheep measles is a disease that won't disappear any time soon. The roaming of untreated dogs defaecating on pasture grazed by sheep and feeding off raw sheep meat has an important part to play in the disease.

Sheep measles is the common name given to lesions in sheep and goats caused by an "intermediate stage" of a tapeworm parasite.

They are seen as hard white cysts either on the surface or deep in muscle tissue. The blemishes in sheep meat can result in downgrading or in extreme cases condemning of sheep or lamb carcasses at the meatworks. It costs the farmer revenue.

Dogs act as host for the tapeworm. This parasite stage is also known as Cysticercus ovis.

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The "primary stage" of the parasite is a tapeworm (Taenia ovis) which infects the intestine of dogs.

In the Western Bay of Plenty the prevalence of lesions in lambs at the meatworks has steadfastly rebounded this year back up to 0.4 per cent of carcasses seen.

In comparison to other North Island sheep centres that have a much higher prevalence — we are in a unique position to reduce it further. But our biggest threat is an outbreak in a single property. This is what has happened in the nearby district of Matamata-Piako.

It is important for farmers, lifestyle block owners, hunters/fishers and urban dog owners to understand two key aspects of control:

* Monthly dosing of all dogs that reside on the property or go to visit properties where sheep graze with an appropriate wormer with praziquantel eg. Droncit Dontal Allwormer
* No feeding of raw sheep (and goat) meat or offal unless it is cooked (72C) or frozen (10d at minus 10C)

We advise not feeding raw meat and to treat your dog monthly at least with a broad spectrum wormer that does tapeworm.

Many modern "wormers" claim to treat worms as a 'treat' or 'pour-on', but they are for the more common roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.

The main concern and risk we run in the Western Bay of Plenty is the lifestyle and/or urban dog that is free to roam across farmland and has been exposed to untreated sheep meat. This threat is only greater with an increasing population of people and their pet dogs walking in the region.

Pet owners need to prove to the land owner that their dog is treated (your veterinarian can certify) and the land owner has an on-farm dosing programme for working and pet dogs.