Evicting Equine Parasites

Grazing peacefully in the sun is heavenly for horses, but horses may eat much more than clover and grass.

Parasitic larvae are commonly present in pastures, particularly where horses have been turned out together. For this reason, a horse must be dewormed regularly. In truth, along with nutritious feeding and ample watering, it may be the most critical thing an owner can do to care for his horse.

Basically, horses are only worm-free immediately after deworming. That very afternoon, they may munch larvae in the field and begin the internal life cycle all over again. Because of this, most equine veterinarians recommend deworming horses every eight weeks to prevent parasitic populations from building up.

What Types of Dewormers Are Available?

Equine dewormers, or antithelmics, are available in many forms: pastes, pellets, powders, and liquid. Powders and liquids are more challenging to administer, and they are generally available only to veterinarians.

The easiest antithelmic compounds to use are the pastes, which come in syringe-like dispensers. Dosages (calculated to correspond to the approximate weight of the horse) are marked on the outside of the tube.

To administer, the user squirts the appropriate amount of paste into the horse’s mouth, taking care that the horse does not expel it afterwards. (This is most likely to happen when the horse still has food in his mouth. A horse with an empty mouth is more likely to swallow paste when it is administered.)

Don’t Use the Same Product Twice in a Row.

A variety of chemical compounds are available. Each targets different parasites, which can be harmful to horses. For example, bots can destroy the stomach wall and cause dental deterioration. Pinworms irritate the rectal region. If you see a horse constantly rubbing his tail, these may be the culprits. Roundworms can damage the heart, liver, and lungs, and may cause colic. Strongyles can destroy circulatory vessels, and may cause colic, anemia, diarrhea, weight loss, brain damage, and more. Tapeworms can cause intestinal ulcers.

At this time, no single dewormer is marketed to combat all species of parasites that may affect a horse. Most veterinarians advise rotating an assortment of dewormers, to target different offenders with each cycle. Many will even offer their equine clients a rotation schedule for deworming their horses. This helps owners to obtain the correct antithelmic products and mark the appropriate dates on their calendars for tracking.

Deworm a Baby Horse More Often

During the first year of life, horses are at-risk for more parasitic infestation than older horses, and the results can be debilitating. One month after birth, a foal should be dewormed. Then, once per month afterwards, he should be treated again, until he is weaned. Faithfully alternating pyrantel pamoate (e.g., Strongid) with ivermectin is a good plan for a nursing foal. After weaning, every six weeks is a good rule for the first year.

For young horses, another option is to purchase and use daily dewormer. This tends to be considerably more expensive than the paste wormers. It is available in pellet form, which is fed along with the colt or filly’s daily feed – administered just like a feed supplement for older horses.

An Old Friend May Need More Frequent Deworming Too.

Older horses may have compromised immune systems, further decreasing their resistance to parasites. Horses over fifteen years of age may need to be dewormed more often, especially if they already have digestive system issues.

Deworming Is Essential to a Horse’s Quality of Life.

Ridding a horse of parasites contributes greatly to his overall health. Internally, these unwelcome residents grab the nutrition a horse ingests – depriving the horse of needed vitamins, minerals, and body fuel. Unchecked, they can lead to depression, lack of energy, and decreased athleticism. In severe cases, infestation can cause colic, which can quickly become life-threatening.

Deworming is reasonably economical and simple to do. Planning ahead, a savvy online shopper can do some price comparisons and perhaps find a bargain. Quantity discounts are often available, so barn friends can order together for significant cost savings. For the horse owner, a regular deworming program is wholly worthwhile, as it extends the healthy life of his beloved equine partner.

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