Every season brings its problems and even though we look forward to the long light days, summer is no exception. So while the battle to control flies is a visible daily trial at this time of year it’s important to remember about other parasites too such as intestinal worms, pinworm, bots, ticks and summer sores that might affect the health of our horses. Summer parasite control means:
- worm egg count every 8-12 weeks
- if you tapeworm tested or gave Equest Pramox in the winter it's time to do an EquiSal Tapeworm test.
- look out for bots, pinworm and ticks
- monitor sand levels in the gut with a faecal sand test
Routine worm count time
Regular worm egg counts should form the base of your programme at this time of year. For healthy adult horses that means sending in a faecal sample to be tested at three monthly intervals. Horses last tested in spring are now due their next test. For youngsters, rescued horses or those with a history of worm problems or high counts, the gap should be shorter; six to eight weeks as they are so more susceptible to infection.
The gaps between testing are based on the life cycle of the small redworm which can complete in as little as five to six weeks, meaning a parasite infection can very quickly get out of hand. This keeps an eye on what's going on before a problem is allowed to develop.
No horses should be blindly treated without testing first; our worming drugs are far too precious to be wasted in this way and will not stay effective for the future if used in such an irresponsible way. Test first and the majority of horses will not need treating.
Is it tapeworm time?
Tapeworm eggs regularly appear in samples under the microscope in summer and are reported where they do. However a sample clear of eggs does not necessarily mean a horse clear of tapeworm so build the Equisal saliva test into your programme for certainty.
We are often misled into thinking only of spring and autumn being ‘tapeworm time’. This traditional pattern was a convenient way to include tapeworm doses in those old fashioned rotational drug programmes but there is no other advantage to sticking to this. If you are one of the many who worm with Equest Pramox in the winter months to cover encysted redworm and tapeworm, the summer is an ideal interval to use the Equisal test to check for tapeworm.
Tapeworm eggs are carried by the forage mite, active on grassland all summer and ingested by the horse while grazing. It takes approximately five to six months for the tapeworm to complete its lifecycle. As it is now about six months since that winter dose, it’s a good time to test.
It’s easy to keep on worming our horses in the belief that the drugs are killing the parasites and all is well. But how do we know they are working? The good news is that we can test to see how effective the drugs have been against a specific parasite species by:
- After a positive worm egg count for redworm or roundworm that requires treatment, conduct a second worm egg count 10-14 days after worming.
- After a positive EquiSal saliva test for tapeworm treat with a recommended drug and test again two months later.
To encourage horse owners to test for resistant worms, we offer price reductions on follow-up worm egg count tests. To take advantage of this special offer you must have tested previously within 4 weeks OR administered a wormer for the possibility of encysted redworm and include the box end of the wormer containing the batch code with the faecal sample.
We should be thankful for modern worming products which give us a safety net for treating those horses found to have significant parasite burdens. We should also be wary of forgetting some of the older drugs which still have their uses. There seems to be an emerging problem with roundworm (ascarid) burdens in adult horses around the ages of six or seven. These animals have only ever been wormed with modern ‘mectin’ wormers, not always the drugs of choice for treating roundworm as there is rising ascarid resistance to these drugs. To prevent this it would be wise to make sure that all youngsters are given a specific dose of either pyrantel or fenbendazole in their first year, targeting ascarids. Once dealt with this problem is unlikely to reoccur as ascarids are rarely seen in older animals.
With summer flies comes the potential for bots which lay their yellow, torpedo shaped eggs on the horse’s legs and shoulders. Try to remove these with a bot knife if you can. Your horse will find them irritating and in licking will start the next stage of the lifecycle. They can cause sores at the back of the mouth as they take up residence between the teeth here prior to passing into the horse’s stomach to over winter. Once there it is thought that they cause few problems unless present in large numbers. A dose of ivermectin or moxidectin late in the year after the first frost should treat them but prevention is better than cure.
Our changing climate and other environmental factors are influencing an increase in the numbers of ticks which we are seeing coming in on our horses, dogs, cats and even ourselves with alarming regularity. These tiny blood sucking parasites live in grassland and latch into the skin of their host to feed. Tick bites can cause localised skin irritations, anemia from blood loss in larger numbers and also have the ability to transmit serious diseases such as Lymes Disease.
Swift removal is important to reduce the risk of pathology and ensuring they are taken off in one piece without leaving the mouthpiece embedded in the skin will also help to prevent infection developing in the wound.
Horses itch for many reasons, especially at this time of year. Help to determine whether the pesky pinworm could be to blame with our handy adhesive tape test. We're seeing a high number of positive pinworm tests in the lab at the moment. If you suspect a problem please get in touch and check out our treatment and husbandry tips and techniques to get on top of these tenacious little parasites.
Animals can ingest sand as they graze and it can accumulate in the colon over time. Here it irritates the gut lining and, in sufficient quantity, also has the ability to cause impaction of the gut which, if not treated in time, can be fatal. If your horse's graze on sandy soils, overgrazing paddocks, dirt track systems or are being fed in a ménage they could be at risk. For equines in these risk categories a faecal sample can be taken at intervals through the year and checked for sand to assess the levels in the gut.
Get in touch...
As ever, the Westgate team are here to offer a great laboratory based testing service, to help you get the best out of your results and to guide you through the worming maze so don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can email, phone or even join the wormy chat on our lively Facebook page, no question too small.