Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fecal exams are fun!

Well, they aren't really, but I thought this would make a catchy title.

I've been trying to better understand parasite management with my llama, Kai. As with my donkeys, I am uncomfortable simply injecting her with a random (although vet-recommended) anti-parasitic/de-wormer every 3 or so months with the hopes that it will take care of whatever issue she has. I really want to be able to knowledgeably treat and dose my animals.

These are some of the parasites and worms that llamas can have:

As you may recall, my Kai is a rescue llama. (You can read here about how she came to live at Critter Farm a year ago last November.) Sherri, the lady who rescued Kai, along with Kai's mom and sister, owns a llama farm called Hidden Oaks Llama Ranch. Sherri is an extremely knowledgeable llama owner and breeder. She is also incredibly well versed in conducting fecal exams. She does all the exams on her approximately 80 llamas and has even posted documents teaching others how to do their own tests. (Side note: This is one of the handful of items on my New Year's Resolution list: "Learn how to do your own fecal exams on your critters".)

Since I recently located this: husband's super cool microscope (that he's had since he was 12 years-old!), this gives me one of the primary tools - and extra incentive - to learn:

But until I have the rest of the gear I need (glass slides and cover slips, fecalyzer test vials, sodium solution, etc), I won't be ready to attempt doing fecal exams on my own yet. I still need my vet's assistance with this.

Recently, I've noticed that Kai has an increased appetite and is showing an urgency around food that is a little unusual, which makes me wonder whether something might be going on with her that I should have checked out. So, off I go to collect some llama beans:

I had put Kai in her stall during breakfast yesterday morning, hoping she would kindly provide me with a small sample:

With trusty Ziploc baggie in hand, I head off to check the stall for my sample:

Ah, good girl, Kai:

One only needs to gather a few beans for the test:

Kai seemed a bit concerned that this particular bag contained none of her beloved carrot coins:

The test result came in from the vet this morning: It was 100% clean. Absolutely no signs of any parasites!

How can this be? This struck me as highly unlikely. Granted, she is the lone llama on my property and cross contamination between donkeys, llamas, goats and chickens does not occur, but still. When I conferred with Sherri over this, she said "I have some llamas that always seem to have something, then others can go for years without de-worming. Lucky you :-) "

Yes, indeed, lucky me. Not at all what I expected, but excellent news. Now I need to check the goats:

Do any of you do fecal exams on your own animals? Does anybody want to maybe mentor me?


  1. I've tried to do fecal exams with my chickens with no luck. From what I understand not all fecal exams show something but that doesn't necessarily mean they don't have worms. I remember reading that you would need to do a total of three tests before you reached 90% accuracy. Up to that point, it's 30%, 60%, etc. And never 100%.

    I treated all of my animals recently at the same time. Even our cats. and even ourselves. Then as a preventive, I bought D/E and have been using that everywhere. In their feed, on the ground. In the chicken houses. D/E is natural and allows me to treat less often. Instead of every few months, I can simply treat every six months to a year depending on the animal. I treat them once, then wait 2-3 weeks and treat again to get the larvae (since meds don't kill eggs).

    There are certain foods that naturally kill parasites such as garlic, carrots, pumpkin seeds, coconut, etc that I try to integrate it into everyone's diet (people and animals). For animals, I simply put a bit of apple cider vinegar in their watering container. What it does is makes the stomach a less habitable place and kills any ingested eggs.

    Good luck with your very fun fecal exam!

  2. okay... seriously Danni, I was eagerly awaiting more pictures of the snow and I get feces??? Well, I guess I have to take the bad with the good :) (but as always, you make everything - even llama feces - entertaining!)

    my word verification is "ficess" too funny...

  3. I've toyed with the idea of doing my own fecal exams but I knew I would never believe the results if they came up clean and would end up taking them all to the vet anyway. As it happens, I collected samples from the boys and Lucy on Tuesday and took them in - they all came up negative for parasites and sand (the sand check is included in the price if you take a large enough sample). This is the fourth time I've tested the boys and the fourth time they've been negative. Which makes no sense to me given all I've read over the years about parasites in equines. But I'm not complaining.

  4. Nope, don't do my own animal fecals. I think it takes a pretty sophisticated microscope to see everything.

    I wonder if Kai's appetite will calm down once things start to green up. More snacks and less need for hay?

  5. I too have vowed to start doing my own fecals on my two Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, but haven't got there yet. My inspiration is Michelle who writes The Collie Farm Blog here In fact her most recent post is on this very subject. She cites Fiasco Farm blog here for instructions. My husband gave me a microscope for my birthday last October and I gathered all the equipment soon after that. Now I just need to gather the raw material and go to it. I'm not sure what's stopping me.


  6. Hi Danni.
    I was on my last mouthful of coffee when I saw your post title! I had to concentrate on swallowing and not spit it out with laughter! What a great title!

    I still have my childhood microscope as well!

  7. A vet we no longer use, let me see the slide when Bailey had worms. It was interesting and I always thought to get my own equipment, as we are needing a current fecal update with kennel visits these days, and I appreciate that kennels are more careful about their clients. Now Mobile vet says just bring in the baggie and it is done for a very affordable fee. Still...I bet it would be kind of fun being you own lab tech/vet.

  8. Great topic! this is appearing in the spring horse magazines and has always been an interest of mine. I'm in a boarding barn but am set that I need to find a way to make this happen.

    I did find the term fecalyzer pretty stinking (stinky?) funny.


  9. I'll let you do all the fecal exams you want, Danni. I cracked up at the term "llama beans!" But I'm delighted that nearly three-hundred-pound Kai is clean, great news. So does that mean that you don't need to give her the anti-parasitic/de-wormer injection this time?

  10. Isn't it silly that you have to collect llama poop?
    your niece Julia

  11. Doing fecal testing on your animals is a great way to not over medicate them when it's not necessary and to give them the correct medications when there is a problem.

    The best site I've found for instructions for goat fecal testing is at Fias Co Farm. The link to their page on fecal testing is:

    I hope this helps.

  12. Mentor you? I was getting ready to mail you a few samples from here.....The carrots may be helping out your animals, acting a a natural wormer of sorts.

  13. The vet. I can't tell one cat poop from another.

  14. Wow, I hadn't even thought of being able to do it myself. Handy though! Kai is so good to contribute to the exam.

  15. Doing fecals are easy. But some parasites you can't see unless they are shedding eggs, like strongyles. Also, under a microscope some artifacts like pieces of hair or hay fibers can look like something(worms or eggs)but are really nothing. Good luck!!

  16. Interesting. Nope, I don't do fecals. Lots of other stuff, but not that. I will consult with you when I need to learn how.

  17. I don't do any animal tests here at home. I would if I lived in the middle of nowhere and didn't have a vet handy.
    But, amazing that you ask. I sent my own fecal test to my doctor today. The doctor sends the test to my house now. Delightful process.... this definitely separates the humans from the farm animals. Just can't get any of the goats to gather their own samples.LOL!
    We who live on a farm deal with this subject all the time. It's all just "poopy stuff" as my grandchildren would say.

  18. THAT is a spectacular microscope. ANd I don't do fecals (but I only have chickens at this point, unless the honeybees start needing fecal exams.) I definitely don't examine the cat and dog poop. I hope you find a mentor! It would be great to do that stuff yourself. Glad your llama's llatest exam came up clean.


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