Ask The Vet

Deworming Doesn't Solve Every Problem

Image by Becky Mills

We have a small group of calves we weaned about two months ago. They’ve been wormed and vaccinated, and are on hay and a little feed. One is losing weight and has diarrhea. The rest seem fine. What do I need to do?

Dr. McMillan: If you have a veterinarian who is familiar with your operation, give him or her a call, and discuss this with them. If you do not have a veterinarian who knows you and your operation, I would suggest calling one and getting him or her to come out a look over your cattle and your operation.

Lately, I have had several similar cases where owners bring in a stool sample, and, when we check it, the calves are heavily infected with worms or worms and coccidia. This is a simple and economical test that is tremendously underutilized.

There are many reasons calves that have been dewormed can still have worms. A calf can be missed. Also, we see more resistance to some dewormers--especially some of the generic pour-ons. Many times, when calves are weaned, they are turned into the same lot calves used in the recent past, and the environment is heavily contaminated with parasite eggs and oocytes. These areas often get muddy, and feedbunks, troughs or pans become contaminated with mud and manure. So, clean pastures or lots, and improved sanitation helps prevent reinfections. Nutrition is also very important. As I have noted before, calves must have a ration that meets their energy, protein and mineral needs. Healthy cattle are much more resistant to all diseases.

Another disease that should be considered is persistent infection with bovine virus diarrhea (BVD-PI). Calves are infected during pregnancy and accept the virus as “normal.” Many of these calves can be smaller and sickly, but some appear normal. All BVD-PI calves shed massive numbers of viruses continuously, so they are a threat to other calves in the herd. This condition can be controlled with testing and vaccinations.

Get a veterinarian involved to know for sure what the problem is. Find out what is happening in your herd, then develop an ongoing herd-health program to keep your operation and your animals healthy and profitable.Our children were home visiting recently, and they said our house dog is way too fat. We do leave food out for her, but she doesn’t seem to eat that much. Could she have something wrong with her?

Dr. McMillan: Overweight pets are an increasing problem in this country. This was a rarity with hunting and working dogs in the days past, but, our inside dogs and cats live a pretty cushy life.

Before I start looking for diseases that can lead to weight gain, I discuss with my clients four areas that need to be addressed if their pets are overweight. These work for humans, too, if I would only follow my own advice.

> 1. Feed the right thing. There are many good dog foods out there, and the most expensive and heaviest advertised may not be the best. We recommend a high-quality, commercial dry dog food tested in an AAFCO-approved (Association of American Feed Control Officials) feeding trial. Light food or diet foods like Hills Metabolic can help some pets.

> 2. Feed the right amount of the right thing. Each bag or can should have the recommended amount to feed based on what your animal should weigh. While this is only a guide, it is a good starting point.

> 3. Don’t feed the wrong things. Snacks, treats and people food are often high in caloric content and short on nutrition. This doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally spoil your pet, but, all calories must be counted. So, think about the snacks and treats you choose.

> 4. Get plenty of exercise. There is an old saying that fits: “If your dog is too fat, you’re not getting enough exercise.”

Now, if you do all these things, and your pet does not lose weight, your veterinarian needs to see him or her, and may need to do some lab work. Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s diseases are two common illnesses in dogs that can lead to weight gain. But, before you go down that road, try the free stuff first.

Please contact your veterinarian for questions pertaining to the health of your herd. Every operation is unique, and the information in this column does not pertain to all situations. This is not intended as medical advice but is purely for informational purposes.

Write Dr. Ken McMillan at Ask The Vet, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email


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