Bottle Jaw & The 4 Steps To Worming Sheep, Cattle & Goats

Bottle jaw is the vernacular term given to pendulous lower jaw swelling in sheep, cattle and goats.
The swelling is a soft tissue edema cause by anemia that is characteristic in animals that are carrying a heavy load of blood sucking internal parasites – better known as worms.

Bottle Jaw In Young Ram

Bottle Jaw In Young Ram

Most often in sheep the worms are Haemonchus contortus –  called “barber pole worms” because of the red and white twisted appearance in large female worms. But other worms, namely Ostertagia circumcinta  and Trichostrongylus colubriformis can also cause a bottle jaw.


What you need to know about bottle jaw is that if you see it in your animals you have a serious problem and must act quickly.

That’s because especially in sheep, most often the first sign of a heavy intestinal parasite load is sudden death.

Sudden Death In A Nursing Ewe Due To Barber Pole Worms

Sudden Death In A Nursing Ewe Due To Barber Pole Worms

In sheep, cattle and goats, diarrhea, weakness, weight loss or thriftiness will sometimes also accompany a bottle jaw.

The treatment for most common worms is simple.

First check around to see what wormers work in your local area. Internal parasites can and do develop drug resistance.

Here’s what I do:

  1. First administer a wormer.
  2. Confine the animals for 24 hours after worming so they can pass out the dead worms. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water.
  3. Release the animals onto clean ground or pasture that has had no livestock for at least 2 months.
  4. Repeat again in 10 days.

At present in my area Cydectin or Ivermectin are effective by injection, drench or pour on. I believe both wormers are off label for goats but are still used. Eprinex , Dectomax, Prohibit, Rumatel, Nematel, Strongid, Tramisol and Valbazen are all good wormers but may have drug resistance where you live. There is drug resistance in my area to  Panacur and  SafeGuard.

Not all wormers are the same so be sure to read the label and pay attention to the milk and meat withdrawal times.



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  2 comments for “Bottle Jaw & The 4 Steps To Worming Sheep, Cattle & Goats

  1. Ted
    May 26, 2013 at 7:14 am

    It seems that every spring one of my does (Sannan goats) gets bottle jaw, while the rest of the herd are fine. If I take the time to pull down their bottom eye lid weekly and make sure there is a nice salmon color I can recognize the heavy worm load (the color gets paler and paler until it is white). Besides worming and reworming 10 days later, I give the anemic doe Lixotinic every day on her grain and I also give 4 cc (per 100 lb.weight) IM injection of Iron and 3-5 cc high potency vit. B complex injection sub Q. The injections are given every other day for a week and then once per week until healthy color returns to the bottom eyelid. Parsley and Kelp are also excellent supplements to treat anemia. This has worked on three occasions, returning our doe to health. This info originally came from Hoegger Supply and from my vet.

    • KMG
      May 26, 2013 at 7:23 am

      Ted –
      Yes I agree that the use of a FAMACHA card eye chart is the best way to control internal parasites in small herds & flocks as long as the card is replaced every year and the assessment is done in full sunlight. In larger flocks I don’t think it’s really practical due to time & labor – but know plenty of good farmers who would disagree with me. Hoegger Supply usually has fantastic herd health information.
      Sometime in the future I’ll try and do a FAMACHA card post :-)

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