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Liver Fluke

Liver Fluke      Fasciola hepatica

The liver fluke affects mainly cattle and sheep but can infect all grazing animals which includes donkeys and horses.

The severity of the disease depends on climate and rainfall.  Systems for predicting the incidence of disease have been designed and are based on meteorological data throughout the summer months.

The fluke requires a snail as an intermediate host and suitable habitats.  It is common in the wetter, western areas of Britain.

Size Appearance

Grey, brown flatworm

Location In Animal

The adult fluke is found in the bile ducts of the liver of the herbivore host.


Infestation is graded as acute, subacute and chronic.

Acute  Sudden death or dullness, anaemia
Subacute Rapid weight loss, anaemia, reduced milk yield
Chronic Progressive weight loss, anaemia, reduced milk yield

All three stages are seen in sheep, however the acute form is seldom seen in cattle, except for calves.

Life Cycle

The cercariae can remain dormant in snails buried in the mud for up to one year.

Infestation peaks in wet summers that lead into a wet autumn.


Control programs take into account the topography, geographical location and weather conditions.

The exclusion of snail habitats from livestock will offer some protection.

Drainage eliminates the snail.

Keep stock off the wettest fields in autumn and winter.

Cattle should be dosed with anthelmintics in December / January.  Outwintered cattle may require an additional dose in May.

Sheep should be dosed in October and January with a drug effective against the immature stages and again in May with a combination worm and fluke drench.