The Meningeal or Brain Worm

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The Meningeal Worm

Infestation of up to 20 meningeal worms has been discovered in a single deer’s subdural cavity. The white tail deer is the preferred host, but they rarely ever suffer from any sickly or neurological problems from this type of worm. We will see severe signs in llamas and alpacas; these are the two animals that can become infected with it frequently. The meningeal worm can cause damage to the central nervous system and could result in death so it is important to try and catch it early and learn about how to prevent this deadly worm. Things that you should be familiar with about the meningeal worm are its life cycle, the signs in your animal, and any prevention or treatment options.

The meningeal worm is also known as the brain worm, or the deer worm. It frequently infects llamas and alpacas, but can infect other species as well like moose, elk, goats, and sheep. The meningeal worm is an internal parasite that is a part of the protostrongylidae family with the definitive host being the common white tailed deer. Even though they are the host, adult meningeal worms rarely cause clinical signs of disease in the deer. The white tail deer’s tolerance to infection from these worms is actually beneficial to the parasite because the white tail deer are the only species that will allow the worm to complete their life cycle. So alpacas and llamas are unsuitable hosts and that is why the meningeal worm is such a threat to them. It can cause varying degrees of damage to their central nervous system. “The cerebrospinal fluid tap is especially useful for diagnosing meningeal worm and ruling out other diseases.” (Whitehead, Bedenice 2009.) Ruling out other diseases helps to narrow down what could be ...

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...dewormer called avermectin that should be given monthly if you decide that the meningeal worm could be a problem in your pasture.


1. Whitehead, C. E., & Bedenice, D. (2009). Neurologic Diseases in Llamas and Alpacas. Veterinary Clinics Of North America: Food Animal Practice, 25(Alpaca and Llama Health Management), 385-405. doi:10.1016/j.cvfa.2009.02.004

2. Powers, J. (2008). Brain Worms: No Big Deal for White-Tails.

3. Smith, M. (2012, October 27). Dealing with Deer Worm.

4. Anderson, D. (2013, march 21). “Brain Worms” (Meningeal Worm) Infestation in Llamas and Alpacas.

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