Horse Deworming: Where Do I Start?

There are many opinions when it comes to deworming your horse. Is there a deworming schedule you should follow? How often do you need to deworm your horse and do you even need to? We have compiled the top facts about deworming your horse that will be important to understand before making any plans!

Signs of Worms in Horses

Recognize the Signs of Worms in Your Horse

Horse people have a keen eye for noticing when something is not 100% about our horse. And from being slightly off to chronic colic you may find that parasites are responsible.

Some classic signs of a parasitic infection in your horse are:

  • Dull Coat
  • “Pot Belly”
  • Chronic Colic Symptoms
  • Respiration Issues
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Diarrhea or Constipation
  • Anemia
  • Excessive Tail Scratching
  • Visible Parasites in Stool
Types of Worms In Horses
Types of Worms in Horses

Read more about each type of worm in detail at KBHH.

What Is The Most Common Worm Found in Horses?

The most common worm found in horses is Small Strongyles also known as Small Redworms.

Creating a Horse Deworming Program

Understanding Worm History:

Traditional parasite control programs involved rotational treatment with anthelmintics at regular intervals depending on the time of year. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, anthelmintic drugs are primarily used to treat infections of parasitic worms. This includes: flatworms, flukes, tapeworms, and roundworms. These programs developed over 50 years ago, when the Large Strongyle Bloodworm was the most important parasitic pathogen of horses.

The programs were simple: kill these worms before they could mature and lay eggs that can contaminate the environment. It took about two months for strongyle eggs to reappear after treatment. Therefore, treatment every 2 months prevented these eggs from being shed in pastures. According to AAEP Internal Parasite Guidelines, this approach was very successful in controlling strongyle infections.  Currently, strongyles are now a rare find in well-managed horse populations.

Previously considered non-harmful pathogens, small strongyles have changed gears. Small strongyles are now recognized as a primary equine parasite pathogen in adult horses. On the same note, Parascaris is now recognized as a major parasitic pathogen in foals and weanlings. Anoplocephala perfoliata has been recognized as a cause of ileal colic in horses.

How Do I Find Out What Type of Worms Are in My Horse?

Over the years, fecal egg counts have become more popular and provide a vast amount of information. This test has the power to show you what kind of worms your horse has and provide dewormer recommendations. This test is traditionally done by a veterinarian. However, there is now an at-home kit that can be easily performed and then sent off for review at a veterinary lab.

Additionally, if you have results from a fecal egg test, then you know what kind of worms your horse has. So, the next step would be to treat for the specific kind.

Creating a Deworming Schedule

Fecal Egg Count Test

The Fecal Egg Count Test (FEC) is specifically designed to identify types of parasites by analyzing your horse’s manure. While this test is effective to measure the number of strongyle eggs your horse carries, it does not catch everything. The FEC test focus’s on measuring eggs found in each gram of manure. However, worms that don’t release eggs inside the horse, such as pinworms, will not be apparent in the results.

According to Martin K. Nielsen, in Robinson’s Current Therapy in Equine Medicine (Seventh Edition), the FECRT (Box 77-1), remains the gold standard for the detection of anthelmintic resistance. Resistance is the ability of worms to survive treatments that are generally effective against similar species and stages of infection. According to the AAEP Internal Parasite Guidelines, resistance is an inherited trait that requires that resistance genes are present. In short, this means that young horses are born with genes that are resistant to anthelmintic dewormers. Repeated anthelmintic treatments allow the resistant parasites to survive and increase in frequency over time.

How Often Should You Deworm a Horse?

You should develop an effective deworming schedule with your veterinarian. Share the test results with your vet to talk about creating a parasite control regimen. It is important to work together to decide on an adequate program! In most cases, regular fecal testing is a requirement to adequately ensure you are eradicating the worms in your horse. The old-school regimen of a rotational dewormer every 2 months has been proven to be ineffective. This regimen is now known to be the cause of drug resistance in parasites.

What Happens If You Don’t Deworm Your Horse?

Opting to not deworm your horse is extremely risky and ill-advised. Worms and parasitic infections can cause serious problems for your animal down the road. From colic to lack of proper nutrient absorption and respiratory issues, worm infestations have no place in your horse’s body.

Can You See Worms in Horse Manure?

Often, serious infestations produce observations of live and dead worms in your horse’s manure. Most often, eggs are primarily released through manure. If you notice visible worms in your horse’s manure, contact your veterinarian to talk about your options.

What is The Best Dewormer For a Horse?

The best dewormer for your horse is the one that will eradicate the worms or parasites within his body. The tests we discussed above will give you and your vet an insight as to how to approach eradication. You should always consult your veterinarian prior to treating your horse.


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