Cattle and sheep are likely to be infested with parasites that can develop over a period of time and cause significant health problems. At WestLab we carry out tests on dung samples through the visualisation of parasites eggs using laboratory apparatuses.

Worms in Cattle:

Liver Fluke: 

Liver fluke is a common parasite affecting cattle and sheep worldwide. There is concern of infection increasing probably due to changing climate and changing animal practices. There is also much concern to the increased resistance to triciabendazole the drug of choice of most livestock producers.

The disease is known as fasciolosis. It is mainly  seasonal, peaks in summer/autumn leading to disease in livestock over the winter. Infective cysts are more numerous during this period and fewer numbers of infective cysts can be present on pasture all year round. Unlike roundworms there is little evidence that cattle develop immunity to fluke infection, The infection can be picked up at any time and animals can be repeatedly infected.

Rumen Fluke:

The presence of Rumen fluke has been increasing in Irish livestock over the past 5-6 years. Rumen fluke is diagnosed by the presence of rumen fluke eggs in dung samples, in the intestine (immature) of the animal or by adult fluke often found at at post-mortem. Rumen flukes do not cause clinical disease unless large numbers of immature rumen fluke are present in the intestine. This can result in fetid diarrhea and in severe cases is fatal to cattle and sheep.

Treatment for rumen fluke in livestock is not recommended unless confirmed by dung sampling and clinical signs. This is due to the fact that only one flukicide  “oxyclozanide” is effective against immature and mature rumen fluke. It is vital that resistance to this flukicide be avoided at all costs, Animal Health Ireland recommends not treating animals routinely.  Treat only if heavy burdens of eggs are present in dung samples and animals are showing clinical symptoms.

How are these Parasites Transmitted?
The life history of rumen fluke is similar to that of liver fluke, as both require a snail as a host to complete their life cycle.
The adult rumen flukes live in the stomach of cattle and sheep where they produce eggs which are passed in the dung. Larvae, which hatch from eggs that developed in a wet and warm environment, infect the snail host. The larvae continue their development in the snail, and when mature, leave the snail and attach to the surface of the surrounding vegetation where they become encased. Here they can remain viable for up 6 months. Infected snails can live and shed the parasite for up to 1 year.
Cattle and sheep become infected when they graze on vegetation containing the parasite. The immature flukes attach themselves to the walls of the small intestine where they grow rapidly. After about 3-6 weeks they migrate and attach to the wall of the rumen. Here they will reach the adult stage and produce eggs


Collectively called gut worms (stomach and intestinal) they cause diarrhoea and weight loss. In cattle there are at least 20 species of which Ostertagia (Round Worms) and Cooperia are the most problematic in Ireland.  Infection with worms cause ill health, weight loss and financial loss. Cooperia lives in the small intestine and Ostertagi living in the abomasum.

Young animals in particular may develop severe clinical symptoms resulting in loss of appetite and restricting growth rates. Those worms cause a condition known as parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE) that can affect cattle of all ages including sheep. Older cattle develop a resistance to roundworm and are less likely to be clinically effected.


Lungworm commonly known as “hoose”effects cattle sheep and other grazing animals. Clinical signs of infection include coughing and difficulty in breathing especially if animals are being moved. Immunity to lungworm quickly develops but only lasts approximately 6 months in the absence of further infection. Lungworm infection can be confirmed by the detection of lungworm larvae in faeces.


How to use our service

If you would like to send a sample of horse faeces for testing please post approximately 50g in an enclosed container (approximately a loosely packed yogurt pot full) to Westlab, Bellaghy, Charlestown, County Mayo. Don’t forget to provide us with your contact details. Print and fill out our submission form Click Here. Please allow 2-3 working days for your test results and send payment with sample (Cheques payable to Westlab). For further information please contact us at

Guidelines to sending faecal sample in by post today.

Please ensure that it is in a properly sealed container such as a screw top plastic jar or a strong plastic bag which can be sealed against leakage. It is also advisable to package round it with paper or bubble-wrap for added security.

On the outside of the package please provide the following information/labeling

  • Our address ( Westlab, Bellaghy. Charlestown, County Mayo )
  • Pathological Specimen
  • Fragile, Handle with care
  • Your address on the back of the parcel

Please send payment with sample (Cheques payable to Westlab) .

Thank you for using our service.