Unless you are a new horse owner (or loaner), like me, you should be well versed in the requirements of equine worming.
However, not all of us know everything and certainly since I last owned Olly guidelines regarding worming has changed, so this is a little post to remind or advise those of you who may be a little rusty when it comes to worming your horse.
Why do we worm our equines?
It is important to worm our equines on a regular basis in order to maintain their health. Without a worming plan in place you could be putting your equines life at risk. It is a well known fact that a major worm burden could damage the gut leading to colic, diarrhoea and other issues.
Types of worms:
There are five types of worms that can affect an equines health, these are:
- Small Redworm – the most common and arguably the most dangerous worm of them all is usually up to 2.5cm long, thin and reddish in colour.
- Large Redworm – is capable of more damage but their numbers have dramatically reduced over the years due to routine worming. They can be as long as 5cm and of a dark red colour.
- Tape Worm – there are three different types but the most common one is called Anoplocephala perfoliata. They are typically an off white colour and can grow up to 7.5cm long and 1.5cm wide.
- Round Worm – are round in shape and can grow up to 50cm long. They are typically troublesome to foals and young horses as adult equines tend to build immunity towards them.
- Pinworm – these do not cause a problem in the digestive system but instead lay eggs near a horses bottom. They do not pass in the faeces and therefore will not show up in a worm egg count test, however, a sellotape test can be done instead.
When I first owned Olly he became really quite ill and even though he had been on a regular worming programme his tests via the vet came back as having a severe encysted small redworm infestation. These worm’s are particularly dangerous because the larval stage bury deep into the gut lining and can lie dormant for some time, eventually they develop and emerge all together in early spring. This can cause diarrhoea and colic and mortality rate has increased up to 50%.
In Olly’s case it appeared that either his immunity had failed and/or the worms had become tolerant to the ingredients of the wormer’s. Olly was then used (via his vet) as an example for extensive treatment and a case was put together and sent to the worming companies for their research and development department. It was not long after this that I had to give Olly up, read his story here.
Making a Plan
Some horse owners (and loaners) choose to worm their equines on a regular basis and others choose to test first then treat, this is something I decided but in every case I would advise you speak to your vet first before making a final decision.
Due to Olly’s history and the fact that worms are becoming more tolerant to worming ingredients I personally chose to purchase the faecal worm egg count and saliva test from Westgate Labs. The worm egg count test would provided me with the relevant results as to whether or not Olly needed to be treated, however, these tests do not show results for Tapeworm or Encysted Small Redworm and therefore I chose to purchase the saliva test for Tapeworm too and I shall worm him for Encysted Small Redworm in Winter time.
Tapeworms can also be tested via a blood sample but you will need to speak with your vet for this.
There is currently no test for Encysted Small Redworm (although apparently there is a new saliva test under development), so in the meantime it is recommended to just treat these worms in late Autumn or early Winter to remove any risk.
All other worming should only be done if a test result shows a worm problem.
Olly’s faecal worm egg count result came back within a couple of days via an email from Westgate Labs and was low so no treatment was required. His saliva test however, came back with a moderate to high result so worming was recommended.
If you need to worm your horse it is important to know the weight of your horse as the amount of wormer you dispense to your equine depends on their weight. Don’t guess their weight because if you under dose it could affect the horse’s ability to develop a resistance to active ingredients in the wormer.
I use a weight tape for Olly but you could use a weigh bridge. The instructions are usually displayed on a wormer box of just how much to dispense to the horse per 100kg.
Regular poo picking of paddocks and fields is advised especially if there is more than one horse grazing together, as this prevents horses ingesting worms at various stages in their life cycle. It is also advised to rest and rotate paddocks for grazing to allow the grass to recover.
When is the Best Time to Test?
In the past I have always wormed at the start of each season but I have since learned that the worms thrive naturally during the Spring and Autumn time.
To ensure you have a happy and health equine it is advised to carry out a faecal worm egg count and worm (if necessary) during the Spring, Summer and Autumn time. For tapeworm it is advised to carry out a saliva test every 6 months starting Spring and then worm for Encysted Small Redworm in Winter time.
If in Doubt Speak to your Vet
Your Vet will be able to give you guidance on what is best for your equine and some of them will even offer a worming programme of worm egg counts, saliva tests and a wormer for an annual price. If they don’t then ask, they might put a package deal together for you.
Thank you for reading this post, I hope you found it useful. Feel free to leave a comment below. Clair x