How to worm your horse responsibly
As horse/pony owners, it is our responsibility to ensure that worming is carried out at regular intervals throughout the year. Horses can tolerate a small number of worms which won't affect their health, however, if the worm count rises to a high level, then the horse or pony can quickly become unwell. Common symptoms that can occur are :
weight loss, lethargy, diarrhoea, loss of apetite, colic and anaemia. There are some types of worms which can cause serious problems for your horse, and more alarmingly, could be life-threatening.
How do horses get worms?
Horses eat the worm larvae along with the grass when grazing. Larvae then starts to grow inside the horse until they reach the bowel, when they hatch into worms. The worms in turn produce eggs which are passed in their dung. This cycle repeats itself over and over if untreated. A faecal worm egg count can be carried out to estimate the number of worms that a horse is carrying inside their body. A qualified vet will take away a sample of the manure for analysis, as the test has to be carried out in a controlled environment. The vet will dilute a proportion of the dung in a solution that reacts and forces the eggs to float to the surface - these eggs can be seen under a microscope. These eggs are then counted and the final result is determined by the number of eggs per gram. The vet will advise you if the worm count is normal or high. Horses and ponies normally require a worming treatment every 12 weeks approximately. This is dependent on several factors, such as:
size of the grazing land, how many horses/ponies share the pasture and how often the land is cleared of dung.
Your vet will confirm how often your horse should be wormed according to these considerations.
Types of worming treatment
The simplest and most common way to worm a horse is orally using a syringe full of worming paste which is squeezed into their mouth. There is also a liquid form which is squirted into their mouth. Some owners prefer to mix a type of granule into the feed - this is not as reliable eg. your horse may not finish its entire feed and this then becomes very difficult to gauge.
In order to determine the correct amount of wormer your horse requires is dependent on its weight. The easiest method to weigh a horse is using special scales, but if you do not have access to these, then you can use a "weight" tape or "girth" tape to obtain an approximate weight. If you have more than one horse or pony, be sure to treat them at the same time.
The simplest way to control worms is to work to a seasonal worming programme. Horses can become resistant to treatment if you always use the same wormer, so it is very important to rotate the wormers that you use from time to time.
Typical Worming Programme
Worming schedules are seasonal and equines are treated according to the time of the year and the types of worms which are around in the different months. Below is a typical worming programme which I have used in the past and is very effective in controlling worms. I obtained the information from Wormers UK.
Types of worm and when to treat
Winter Months - (November, December, January and February). At this time of the year you should treat for Encysted Small Redworm Larvae by using Equest, Equest Pramox or Panacur Equine Guard. Treatment should also be given for Bots and this can be treated with Equest Pramox, Equest, Equimax, Eraquell, Vectin, Noromectin or Eqvalan.
Spring & Autumn Months - (March, April, September and October). Treat for Tapeworm with Equest Pramox, Pyratape P, Equimax, Duo, Equitape or Strongid P.
Summer Grazing Months - (May, June, July & August). Treat for Roundworm, Large Redworm and Small Redworm. These can be treated by Eraquell, Equest, Equest Pramox, Telmin, Equimax, Duo, Noromectin, Vectin, Pyratape P, Strongid P or Panacur.
Work out a worming programme to ensure that your horse does not build up a resistance. Try to rotate the wormers used. All of the wormers can be used throughout the year for routine worming EXCEPT EQUITAPE as this is normally only used to treat tapeworm. Always consult your vet if you are in any doubt, as there are many factors which should be taken into account e.g. the horses general health, foals, and horses which are lactating.
A healthy horse is a happy horse.
What you can do to reduce worms
* Always worm using the correct number of treatments per year.
* Always worm on time.
* Use the correct treatment according to the time of year and your planner.
* Ensure that the dung is collected and removed regularly from the paddock/field to keep worms to a minimum.
* Try not to allow the pasture to be over-grazed.
* Ensure that any new horses comimg into the paddock are wormed immediately.
* Worm all of your horses sharing the same grazing land at the same time.