The Silent Threat: What to Know About Worms and Worming Horses
As a horse owner, it is crucial to prioritise the health and well-being of our beloved horses. One aspect that demands special attention is the presence of internal parasites, commonly known as worms. While regular deworming has long been a staple in equine healthcare, the emergence of wormer resistance poses a significant challenge. In this blog, we will delve into the world of worms, explore the importance of proper worming, and shed light on the growing dangers of wormer resistance.
Understanding Worms and Their Impact:
Internal parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms, and strongyles, are prevalent in horses and can cause various health problems. These worms reside in the horse's gastrointestinal tract, where they feed on blood, nutrients, and tissues, leading to a range of issues, including poor coat condition, weight loss, colic, diarrhoea, and even compromised immune function.
The Significance of Regular Worming:
To combat the detrimental effects of worms, routine deworming has traditionally been implemented as a preventive measure. Dewormers, also known as anthelmintics, are medications specifically designed to target and eliminate these internal parasites. However, the misuse and overuse of dewormers have inadvertently contributed to the development of wormer resistance.
The Rise of Wormer Resistance:
Wormer resistance occurs when certain species of worms develop a tolerance or immunity to the chemicals present in dewormers. This resistance poses a significant threat to equine health as it renders the medications ineffective, compromising the well-being of our horses and limiting our ability to control parasitic infestations. Factors contributing to the development of wormer resistance include frequent and indiscriminate use of dewormers, inadequate dosing, underdosing, and inadequate pasture management.
The Dangers of Wormer Resistance:
- Ineffectiveness of Dewormers: Wormer resistance reduces the efficacy of dewormers, rendering them ineffective against certain worm species. This means that despite deworming, horses may still harbour significant parasite burdens, leading to ongoing health issues.
- Increased Health Risks: When wormer resistance occurs, parasite populations can flourish within horses. Heavy parasite burdens can result in severe damage to the gastrointestinal tract, leading to poor nutrient absorption, anaemia, weight loss, and even fatal colic.
- Transmission to Other Horses: Infected horses shedding worm eggs can contaminate pastures, water sources, and stable environments, exposing other horses to the risk of infection. This cycle perpetuates the spread of resistant worms within equine populations.
Preventing and Managing Wormer Resistance:
- Strategic Deworming Programs: Implementing targeted and evidence-based deworming programs, such as faecal egg counts (FECs) and selective treatment based on individual horse's needs, can help reduce the unnecessary use of dewormers and combat resistance.
- Pasture Management: Proper pasture management practices, including regular removal of manure, rotational grazing, and resting pastures, can help reduce the risk of reinfestation and decrease the reliance on dewormers.
- Consultation with a Veterinarian: Work closely with your veterinarian to develop a tailored deworming plan suitable for your horse's specific needs. Regular faecal egg counts and veterinary guidance can help monitor and adjust the deworming protocol as necessary.
The growing threat of wormer resistance demands our utmost attention as responsible horse owners and caretakers. By implementing targeted and evidence-based deworming programs, practicing good pasture management, and working closely with veterinarians, we can minimize the risk of resistance and protect the health and well-being of our equine companions. Let us remain vigilant in the battle against worms to ensure the longevity and vitality of our horses.