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Treating Gizzard Worms and Tapeworms in Finches

 

Photo by: Roy Beckham

Photo by: Roy Beckham

Panacur 25” (was Panacur 2.5) is a worm drench that was originally made by Hoechst, which is now Coopers Animal Health, a division of Intervet Australia P/L. The active ingredient is Fenbendazole, at 25 gms/litre strength. “Panacur 25” is marketed mainly for sheep, and is sold in one litre containers. Panacur is
still my preferred worm treatment for finches, because it controls both round worms, such as gizzard worms, and tapeworms, while most other worm treatments control either round worms or tapeworms, but not both. With these products, wormers with a mix of 2 different compounds have to be used to cover both worm groups.

There are generic copies of Panacur 25 around now that the patent has run out. They mostly seem to be ok, and may be cheaper, although the original Panacur is not expensive now. (Check that the strength is 25 gms/litre).

Beware that you do not use the stronger cattle preparation, which is 4 times the strength, called Panacur 100 or similar (it is 100 gms/litre strength). I use feed medication only, rather than via drinking water treatment, which isnot reliable enough in my opinion, and I mix Panacur at 6 mls/kg of birdseed. Panacur is a suspension, which settles out rather fast, so is particularly unsuitable and dangerous, for water medication.

In aviaries with serious worm problems, I treat for 4 weeks on and then 4 weeks off and 4 weeks back on again. This longer treatment program once per year for several years apparently works, and seems to virtually eradicate the worm problem, without needing to spray insects in the aviary or otherwise clean them out. I normally treat in August, but other times seem ok, too.

Lifecycles
I originally started on this longer worm program after seeing odd worms at post mortem, even after a single treatment.

My planted aviaries are never sprayed, and rarely cleaned out, thus they form an ideal environment for both gizzard worm and tapeworm in finches, both of which depend on certain insects feeding on the worm eggs in bird droppings to complete their life cycle. The birds in turn feed on the insect (or its larvae), containing the intermediate stage of the parasite, which finally develops onto an adult worm in the bird’s intestine. These worms are termed two-host parasites.

The new 2 x 4-week treatments fit in better with the known and suspected life cycle details of these worms. The maximum survival time outside the finch may be two months, thus at the end of the second 4-week treatment hopefully none, or very few, infested insects will be left in the aviary for the finches to pick up. Also, both of these worms should take at least one month to mature to egg laying stage in the bird, thus infestations picked up during the 4 week break between treatments should be killed before they become adult egg-laying worms.

This 2 x 4-week treatment program was designed when I had a serious worm problem in planted aviaries, due to a large build-up of infested insect larvae and adults, causing finch deaths which showed worms on post-mortem.

After several years of this treatment regime, I am now mostly able to rely on only one 4 week treatment per year, but the situation is always under review.

Some people doubt whether the finch gizzard worm does actually pass through an insect during its life cycle or not. They suggest it may be a direct, one-host parasite, transferred directly by infested droppings eatenby other birds, similar to most other round worms. I doubt this theory because, if this were true, then these worms should also be seen in noninsect- eating finches like Gouldians. I have never seen gizzard worms in a Gouldian and, prior to 2005, I hadnever seen tapeworms in a Gouldian finch, when one tapeworm infested Gouldian showed up. I have now seen a second infested single Gouldian in 2013. As yet, Gouldians do not appear to have enough worms to warrant treatment, if they are housed on their own. If housed with other finches they would obviously be treated.

Tapeworm

Tapeworm

 

Mixing Panacur with Dry Seed
Panacur 25 has proved safe for my finches now for many years, at 6 mls/ kg of feed, but it must be accurately measured and mixed, as higher doses can be toxic. As it is not absorbed from the bird’s gut, it apparently does not build up in the system, and thus longer treatment should not increase the toxic risk to the bird.

When I am mixing, I first shake the Panacur container well immediately before measuring out, then withdraw amounts of up to 20ml with a syringe, or similar, and with larger quantities I pour it into a measuring glass.

To minimise the possibility of rejection by the birds, it is important to medicate the same seed mix that the birds are used to, and all seed grain offered to birds during the program must be medicated. When I am not medicating, I normally feed a finch mix in a selffeeder and one dish, with straight red panic in a second dish. When treating, I close the self-feeder, replace regular feed dishes, and feed one medicated mixture of 1/2 finch mix and 1/2 red panic, using one or two dishes, depending on bird numbers. Remove or cover all non-medicated seed type feed during treatment. I use 6ml Panacur 25 in 12ml vegetable oil per 1kg treatment seed mix. (This equals 150mg of Fenbendazole active per seed mix).

I actually mix 60ml Panacur in 120ml oil with 10kg of seed, or half thisquantity: 30ml Panacur in 60ml oil, to 5kg of seed.

The oil and Panacur are placed in a screw top jar and shaken hard. This makes an emulsion, which is then mixed through the dry seed with either a large spoon or a mixer. The oil makes a good spreader in dry grain (do NOT use paraffin oil). This treated dry seed has a reasonable shelf life, and I have used it for 12 months. Used seed can be sieved or winnowed for re-use, as the oil used appears to bind the Panacur to the seed, preventing it from blowing off.

Watch birds carefully for rejection of treated seed when it is first introduced. This has not occurred in my aviary, but a few people have reported some problems with the first treatment.

Finches heavily infested with tapeworms can die during treatment. Tapeworms hang onto the intestine wall by their mouths, and when they are killed all at once, they let go their hold and travel along the bowel en masse, presenting the danger of a fatal bowel lockage. In my experience, these deaths usually occur 4-10 days after the start of treatment, and can be confirmed at post mortem. This is unfortunate, but these birds were most likely destined to die from the worm infestation anyway. The plus side is that it can confirm that your treatment is effective. The oil added to the see attreatment may help to reduce the risk of this problem.


Mixing Panacur with Soaked Seed

Soaked grain, if continued during treatment, must also be treated with the Panacur, and for this I use 1 part Panacur to 6 parts water, with no oil. Mix at the normal dry seed rate of 6ml per 1kg dry seed. For soaked grain, I actually mix 1.5ml Panacur in 9ml water added to 250g seed mix (dry weight). This is mixed in the strainer with a spoon, following final rinsing and draining and just prior to feeding out.

Mixing Pancur with seed

Mixing Panacur with seed

 

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