Ovis Management project manager Dan Lynch, left, with Anne Berrie with her dog named Spinner, in 2017.
Cases of sheep measles are declining throughout the country, with Marlborough seeing its lowest number of cases in almost a decade.
However, dog owners who walk their pets near farms or vineyards, and pig dog owners, are being asked to treat their pets for the sheep measles tapeworm to stop its spread.
The disease causes pus-filled tapeworm cysts in muscle tissue and can leave lamb, mutton or even goat meat inedible, not even fit for dog food.
But Ovis Management project manager Dan Lynch, who monitors cases of sheep measles, said the risk of infection had not yet passed.
“Nationally it’s looking really good, prevalence is down substantially this year but it’s some degree early days and we’re just monitoring it very closely.”
An outbreak of sheep measles in Marlborough caused huge losses for farmers in 2015.
But Lynch said only five farms with a high prevalence of sheep measles had been reported in Marlborough in four months to the end of March, down from 16 cases for the same period in 2015.
“We’re delighted with what we’re seeing, but we also acknowledge that a lot of lambs are moving into vineyard grazing now,” Lynch said.
“The risk still stands for lambs to become infected.
“We’re entering an area where a lot of dogs are entering vineyards, so that’s the concern,” he said.
Lynch said dog owners that were taking dogs to the countryside or near vineyards, should be dosed.
Dog owners could prevent their pets from spreading sheep measles by giving them a monthly pill, available at vet clinics, and feeding them cooked meat instead of raw.
He suspected people taking dogs for a walk near vineyards, especially on public roads, contributed to the spike in sheep measles a few years ago.
“Dogs who eat raw meat can develop a tapeworm inside, which can grow to two metres. Eggs from the tapeworm are passed onto pastures through the dog’s faeces and get spread to sheep across a huge distance.”
Pig hunting dogs should also be dosed, Lynch said.
Farmers were usually already dosing their farm dogs, so Lynch was focusing on educating people with dogs as pets, he said.
More information could be found at www.sheepmeasles.co.nz