Do I need to worm my horse?

Do I need to worm my horse?

Bourton Vale Equine Vet Nurse, Emilie Richardson provides advice for the ideal worming programme.

We are often asked by our clients to provide advice on worming and which wormers are correct for the time of year to target individual offending species. But worming is not all about the wormers; there are other ways we can reduce the presence of worms and lower the occurrence of resistance in parasite populations. 

Emilie Richardson, one of our Vet Nurses has put together this years ideal worming programme for an average adult horse. 

February:

Start faecal worm egg counting at the end of the month.

Any results of 250 eggs per gram and over need treatment.

Use an ivermectin based treatment like Equimax or Eqvalan.

Any results less than 250 eggs per gram do not need treatment at this stage.

Continue this routine every 8-10 weeks for the rest of the year. 

Our internal lab are able process a sample for you. All you need to do is bring in a small bagged sample labelled with your name, your horses name and a contact number. Our lab technicians are then able to process your sample and report the results back to you (normally within a couple of days). Worm egg count tests are approximately £8.00. 

April and October:

These have always been traditional times of the year to treat for tapeworm. If you do not wish to test for Tapeworm then a dose of Equitape should be administered at these times.

If you wish to test for tapeworm before treating there are 2 options;

  1. Equisal saliva test. This is a test that you can do easily yourself at home. We can send out a kit to you at a cost of £17.95 plus post & packing (total of approx £21). All the instructions are with the kit and once the swab has been obtained then it can be posted to Equisal in the freepost envelope provided. Typically we get results within 4 days of Equisal receiving your sample and we will then phone you with the results and a course of action.
  2. Blood Test. A vet will come out and visit your horse to take a blood sample which will then be sent to an external lab to test for tapeworm antibodies. You will then be phoned with the results (typically with a week of the blood being taken) and a course of action. This is a more expensive option as you have to pay for the vets visit as well as the external lab fees. Most people opt for the easier saliva test.
  3. Both tests will test for the presence of specific antibodies in your horses blood or saliva. The higher the count of antibodies the higher the likelihood that your horse has been exposed to a tapeworm and will need treatment.

December:

This is the only time that we would recommend routinely treating your horse with a wormer.

A moxidectin based wormer like Equest is essential for treating bot larvae and encysted L3 larvae of intestinal worms that hibernate within the gut wall over the winter period. Sadly there are no tests yet available that can detect the presence of these in your horse.

For this reason a worm egg count in December is unnecessary as you will be giving your horse a wormer at this time anyway.

Then wait for 8-10 weeks before starting your yearly plan again.

All Year Round:

Having a good pasture management plan in place is essential for eliminating the potential for high worm burdens in your horse.

‘Poo picking’ should be done at least twice a week if not everyday.

Some worm species have ‘free-living’ stages in their life cycles where they can live independent of the host (your horse) for quite a long time, increasing the risk of re-infestation.

If possible paddocks should be rested with no stock on them for as long as possible but for a minimum of a couple of months. Alternatively, rotational grazing of the paddocks with sheep or cattle is good as they will often eat the larval stages of horse intestinal worms with no detriment to themselves.

Pinworms:

Pinworms (Oxyuris Equi) are notoriously difficult to get rid of as the eggs can lay dormant in stables or on pasture for quite some time. A worm egg count will not necessarily detect the presence of Pinworms in your horse as the female pinworm lays her eggs outside the anus, these can sometimes be seen as a creamy coloured discharge. The most common sign of a pinworm burden though is constant itching of the rear end, some horses are so aggravated by the itching that they can rub themselves raw and get very distressed. In these circumstances a plain cream like aqueous cream or even Sudocreme can relieve the itching and be soothing for your horse.

Pinworm Treatment:

Because they are so difficult to get rid of, the following treatment should be stuck to and completed in full. This is a tried and tested treatment developed by one of our vets with great success.

  1. Triple dose of Eqvalan (remember as with all worming products to dose to the weight of your horse).
  2. For one week paint on a glycol/ivermectin wash (provided by us here at BVEC) around the anus of your horse.
  3. After a week do a 5 day course of Panacur Equine Guard.
  4. Scrub your stable thoroughly with Virkon.

It is important to implement an appropriate worming programme for your horse due to the damaging affects parasites can have on horse health and performance. A high worm burden can, and often is the culprit for poor body condition, colic and in severe cases death. For this reason, it is essential that your horses worming is taken seriously and managed effectively. A few key points to follow are:

1. Regular worm egg counts.

2. Dose wormers correctly according to body weight. 

3. Avoid blanket or unnecessary worming. 

For any further information or advice, please do not hesitate to contact the clinic on 01451 820137. We stock all of the wormers and tests mentioned in the article above which are available for collection or posting

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