There are many things in a horse’s environment that can cause them to experience ill-health. In order to help a horse establish and maintain optimal health, then, it becomes necessary to determine which things can adversely affect their health and then take action to protect them from these things. One such procedure that helps to restore and maintain health is timely deworming.

What Deworming is For and How it Works

A horse that has an overpopulation of intestinal parasites may suffer from colic, anemia, ill-thrift or diarrhea as a result. While some adult horses are immune to most gastrointestinal parasites, they can still be affected if the population grows out of control. Other adult horses do not have the same immunity, and therefore suffer when experiencing any amount of parasite infestation. Deworming works to resolve this problem by reducing the number of parasites in the horse’s system.

In the past, equine intestinal parasites were handled by the administration of deworming drugs every six to eight weeks, or as much as eight times in a year. The problem with this approach is that not only is this a bit of overkill, but it also creates resistance in parasites, which means the drugs become less effective at resolving them. The solution, then, is to have your veterinarian design a deworming schedule that is specific to your horse’s needs. This targeted, or selective, deworming strategy uses fecal egg counts in order to determine whether a horse has a high parasite burden and therefore needs deworming treatment. According to research, the targeted deworming strategy actually slows the progression of parasite resistance, while also preventing over-medication and saving horse owners money. In many cases, twice yearly deworming is sufficient to keep a horse from suffering an overpopulation of parasites. In some rare cases, deworming three to four times a year is necessary, and in very rare cases deworming four to five times a year is necessary.

In order to ensure that whatever deworming your horse receives is actually effective, your veterinarian will perform regular fecal egg counts. Where a horse has a high fecal egg count, they will be treated with the appropriate deworming solution and then a new fecal egg count will be performed between ten to fourteen days later. If the deworming solution was effective, the new fecal egg count should be close to zero. However, in the case that the fecal egg count remains high, there is a good chance that your horse has developed resistance to the dewormer that was used and they need a dewormer from a different drug class. This is where consulting with your veterinarian is particularly important, as they can help you to create a special deworming program for your horse’s specific needs. As part of designing the program, your veterinarian will want to perform another fecal egg count approximately four to twelve weeks after initial treatment so that they can determine egg reappearance time. This will help them to know whether the deworming drug is working for a shorter period of time and is therefore causing resistance to develop, in which case they can suggest a different dewormer.

In addition to the proper administration of effective deworming drugs, you can help to reduce the incidence of intestinal parasites in your horse by:

  • Removing manure from stalls and small paddocks every day and from larger paddocks once a week. This helps to remove any eggs and larvae that are in the environment and can cause reinfestation.
  • Rotate the use of dirt paddocks throughout the summer. This will allow eggs and larvae in the environment to die off without coming into contact with a host.
  • Compost horse manure prior to spreading it onto fields. Again, this will allow eggs and larvae to die off before they are spread over a wider area.
  • Control the weeds and grasses in paddocks to keep them short. This prevents eggs and larvae from having sufficient cover to survive in.
  • Use different buckets and wheelbarrows for feeding and cleaning stalls. This will prevent cross-contamination from occurring.
  • Always perform a fecal egg count on new horses that you bring onto your property or allow to be in close contact with your horse.

For more information about deworming, contact La Crosse today.