Keeping your horse free of worms is essential not only to the animal`s health and comfort, but also to its ability to perform in sporting events and competitions. Often, horses will be affected by worms from a very young age, so it is vital to ensure that you are well versed in worming techniques from the moment the horse enters your care. Regularly treating your horse for worms should be practised as a routine part of its care regime and, as is the case with all other aspects of equine health, knowing which products to use and how to properly use them will ensure that the problem of worms is kept at bay.
Horses are susceptible to a variety of different worms, ranging from the common tapeworm and threadworm to the less commonly recognisable round worms known as ascarids and bloodworms, also referred to as strongyles.
In treating your horse`s worms, it is vital that the treatment used corresponds with the type of infestation. In being designed to attack a specific type of worm, the treatments available are more targeted and effective, providing quicker relief for your horse and allowing you maximum control in over-seeing your horse`s treatment.
General treatment guidelines are available online and in your local veterinary centre and often list several potential chemicals for the treatment of each type of worm. There are a handful of main treatments available, under an extensive range of brand names:
Pyrantel - this is effective in the treatment of ascarids, bloodworms and tapeworms which resist the efforts of regular de-worming treatments. It is not absorbed into the digestive tract, making it less toxic to the horse than other methods.
Avermectins - these are absorbed into the digestive tract and, while being slightly more dangerous to the horse, are effective in treating migrating parasites, particularly ascarids and certain types of bloodworm. Avermectins are also especially effective at treating botfly infestations.
Benzimidazole - this is also effective in treating ascarids and is often used as an alternative to avermectins. Additionally, benzimidazole is used in the treatment of strongyloids.
Whilst there exist a wide range of specialised treatments intended for specific infestations, there remains a challenge in identifying the circumstances in which a particular treatment should be administered. Unfortunately, due to the vast number of worms which it is possible for your horse to pick up, locating the exact treatment may seem like a daunting task, exacerbated by the fact that, often, different varieties of worm infestations may present with strikingly similar symptoms, making it hard to distinguish between them.
In order to combat this, it is frequently advised that worming treatments should be synchronised to each worm`s common periods of infection throughout the year. Bloodworm, for example, is best treated in late Autumn, while tapeworm is effectively managed through treatment at the end of the horse`s grazing period. Similarly, ascarids are almost limited to younger horses and as such are likely not the cause of symptoms of worms in older horses.
Many vets and horse trainers recommend rotational de-worming in order to ensure consistent treatment. A rotational schedule usually contains bi-monthly periods of broad spectrum treatment, interspersed with bi-monthly targeted treatments using a chemical such as pyrantel, in order to treat different stages of various worms and to reduce the presence of tapeworm. This method is particularly valuable in preventing the build up of resistence to treatment.
A simple and effective three way rotational schedule might work as follows:
Jan / Feb - targeted pyrantel-based treatment.
Mar / Apr - broad spectrum de-worming treatment.
May / Jun - targeted benzimidazole-based treatment.
Jul / Aug - targeted pyrantel-based treatment.
Sep / Oct - broad spectrum de-worming treatment.
Nov / Dec - targeted benzimidazole-based treatment.
Keeping your horse free of worms initially appears complicated, but once you have familiarised yourself with the type of worms your horse is susceptible to and the type of treatments to which these infestations respond best, it can be as simple as the above schedule reveals. There is a wealth of anecdotal and clinical advice available online, from worming to grooming and free horse racing tips designed to help introduce you with the world of equine care.