Equine Parasite Control Strategies

Habitat for Horses Land Fund

Worms – the ones that horses can get as parasites – is something we often see here in neglected horses that come in to our ranches at Habitat for Horses. Now, we are not saying that only neglected horses get worms. ANY horse can get these horrible parasites. They can be difficult to control since they can survive in almost any type of climate. Parasite management of your pastures and stalls is extremely important to your horses health. This article discusses how to control intestinal worms in your horses without contributing to dewormer resistance in parasites. Remember if you have any questions about equine worms or your horse’s health to call your equine vet! ~ HfH

From: The Horse Channel
By: Dr. Karla Rugh

Even horses kept with exactly the same lifestyle can have extremely different parasite loads.

Internal parasites (aka “worms”) attack horses of all ages, causing a variety of problems ranging from poor physical condition and stunted growth to colic. Paradoxically, some horses show few, if any, signs of internal parasite infestation until they experience an acute—and possibly life-threatening—health crisis.

Of the many different types of equine internal parasites, the most important are large strongyles (Strongylus vulgaris, Strongylus edentatus and Strongylus equinus), small strongyles (cyathostomes), roundworms (Parascaris spp.) and tapeworms (Anoplocephala magna, A. perfoliata and Paranoplocephala mamillana).

Does Your Horse Have Worms?
It’s not always easy to tell if your horse has worms. Some of the diagnostic methods used, with varying degrees of success, include:

Observation of poor physical condition (rough hair coat, pot-bellied appearance, weight loss). Although some horse owners claim they can tell if their horse has worms just by looking, this diagnostic method is nothing more than a guess. Many horses with worms, especially adults, have no visible change in condition. Poor condition can stem from lots of other problems as well—inadequate feed, illness or even stress.

Looking for worms in the manure. Unfortunately, most worms aren’t visible in the manure, with the possible exception of roundworms (large white worms usually seen after deworming) and small strongyle larvae (small red worms). If you do see worms in the manure, you can be sure that your horse is infected. However, he could also have other worms that don’t show up in those piles.

Fecal flotation. When your veterinarian finds parasite eggs in a fecal flotation test, it’s proof that your horse has parasites. What that positive result doesn’t reveal is the severity of the infestation; were the eggs produced by a few adults or a few hundred? A negative fecal flotation can also be misleading: If eggs aren’t found, your horse might be parasite-free, or it could mean the parasites just aren’t currently producing eggs. Since the fecal flotation test only indicates the parasites that are present and not the severity of the infestation, horses with low-level parasite loads may receive unnecessary medication. A fecal flotation test also won’t tell you if your deworming medication has effectively reduced the parasite load.

Fecal egg count (FEC). This test is the most informative diagnostic method because it determines the number of parasite eggs per gram of fecal matter. This tells your veterinarian what parasites are involved and the severity of infestation. Fecal egg counts are also used in fecal egg count reduction testing (FECRT), which determines the effectiveness of a deworming program. A negative FEC can be misleading for the same reasons described for a negative fecal flotation test.

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
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