Regular and parasite-specific worming of your horse should be part and parcel of good stable management practice. But just how effective is your worming programme? Recent veterinary research shows that wormer resistance is a growing serious health threat to our horses and vets are concerned that owners are relatively unaware of the implications of the problem.
Increasing parasitic resistance to wormers
Back in 2010 a concerned BVA (British Veterinary Association) launched a campaign to advise owners that in order to slow parasite resistance worming treatments should be based on veterinary diagnosis rather than just routine. Earlier this year however the results of a study by the EVJ (Equine Veterinary Journal) were released which showed that many owners are still blissfully unaware of the issue and in fact of those surveyed, 86% did not realise that resistance was present on their yard.
When surveyed about their parasite control methods, most horse owners admitted being concerned about moving away from the traditional four times yearly worming programme they’ve used for years and adopted the, ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ mind set. Vets advise that owners take a worm egg count at intervals during the year and base their worming treatment on veterinary advice following the results of the worm count. Many owners remain unconvinced, fearing that this approach may not be totally effective.
However, the choice of when to worm and what product to use may soon be removed from owners under radical new plans proposed earlier this year by the BVA which would see worming treatments becoming prescription only. A study by the Moredun Research Institute showed that only one of three categories of worming drugs still has a success rate of more than 95% - those containing ivermectin and moxidectin.
Professor Jacqueline Matthews, who helped run the study voiced concerns that new worming products are not coming through and that research has shown a reduction in the length of time existing treatments are effective in controlling worm egg counts; a clear indication that resistance is growing.
Owners in the UK are now being strongly advised to abandon their traditional worming programmes and instead to consult a vet or suitably qualified person for advice in creating an effective worming strategy with the help of faecal worm egg counts. Yards with multiple owners must all worm from the same professionally devised plan and subscribe to having regular egg counts. New arrivals should be worm-counted and treated appropriately before being introduced to groups of existing horses.
Of course, the correct management of turn-out is of paramount importance and it’s vital to remove droppings at least once a week. Not only does ‘poo-picking’ maintain a healthier environment for grazing horses, it also completely disrupts the worms’ life cycle which dramatically reduces the problem of worm infestation. It should also be remembered that stable kept horses are also at risk from worms as eggs can be present in hay and haylage, so they should also be included in the egg count and treatment programme.
If you are in any doubt as to the best worming treatment programme for your horse, always consult your vet for expert advice.
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