Equine Parasites: Living With Them; Accepting Their Existence

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How can one expect that horse owners will readily accept the existence of parasites in horses?

No horse owner would want a horse that is burdened with parasites. However, accomplishing a goal of zero parasites is not only difficult but is also unrealistic  Drug-resistant worms are trying to overtake farms worldwide and this problem should remind us not to overuse equine dewormers to avoid contributing to the development of super resistant worms. The important thing here is to use dewormers less frequently and more selectively to preserve their efficacy. In addition, horse owners may need to accept living with worms.

Cycle of Parasites

 

 

Focus on Larvae Eradication

Effective parasite control requires owners to do away with the notion that adult worms should be given highest priority. The most important thing with horse worming is to make sure that the horse stays healthy and that the great damage is the work of the immature larvae. Thus, it is much better to focus on reducing parasite reproduction and environment contamination, so that there will be fewer larvae that can potentially infect other horses.

 

Employ worming tactics by deworming based on the environmental conditions of your farm.

In waging your war on parasites, you need to take advantage of the information on a worm’s biology. Do not merely rely on scheduled deworming, but rather, know more about the lifecycle of a parasite. For instance, worm eggs do not die off in cold temperatures, but rather they lie dormant; eggs don’t hatch and larvae won’t develop either. However, those larvae that have survived to reach the infective stage won’t die either. Eggs can hatch just fine in temperatures above 85 °F(29°C) but the larvae may not survive. Horse owners should therefore focus their treatment plan on particular seasons when infective larvae are predominantly found on pastures – generally during autumn and spring for all climates, during winter in the South where it is warmer, and during summer up in the cooler North. There is no need to deworm if the environmental conditions are not conducive for parasite transmission.

 

Do not contribute to the development of superworms.

There have been reports documented that all classes of wormers may not be effective at some point. Of course, this would still vary from farm to farm. Keep in mind that rotating all three chemicals may not be always safe. It still pays to check what types of parasites are dominating in your farm. Reducing the frequent use of equine dewormers as well as targeting only the susceptible parasites can help in slowing down development of drug resistance.

 

Treat Horses Individually

In humans, some people can be more susceptible to flu while others can just shrug it off. The same thing goes for horses; some can present mild symptoms while others can be affected severely even when the culprit is the same. Just think about it: horses, throughout their evolution, have survived without deworming and this only shows that some of them may not need it as well. Giving treatments to those less susceptible ones does not promise benefits but instead, can only lead to drug resistance.

 

Treat horses that show symptoms

In deworming, it is best to give the agent to only the horse that shows clinical symptoms and has significant worm burden as proven by fecal egg count exams. You can assume that your horse has parasites but if he looks perfectly healthy and performs satisfactorily, the worm burden may not be that significant. If you are in doubt, fecal exams can always give you peace of mind. If your horse is a high shedder, then it’s time to deworm and make sure to use only the dewormer that targets what your horse has.

 

Worms may evolve; Make the change

Equine parasites have developed over the years and some have evolved to be drug-resistant. As they evolve, they become harder to treat and this becomes a problem. It’s time to change our ways when it comes to horse worming. Let us not deworm just for the sake of eliminating worms completely. Accepting the fact that your horse will never be 100% parasite-free can do a lot in improving your horse worming program.

 

 

 

 

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Horse blogger....I am a horsewoman who has a general interest in horses, love talking about horses' and writing about day-to-day horse care issues.

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