Monday, March 28, 2011

A Chat With The Vet - Parasites

I had a great opportunity to attend a seminar my vet and his hospital was holding at a local boarding facility. I had been planning on attending this "seminar" since late January when I found out about it through the vet's e-newsletter. I had saved the date knowing I wanted to attend, but then came to find out that a friend of mine who keeps her horses at said facility would be attending as well, making me extra eager to attend.

The seminar was addressing Spring Grasses and Parasites. I have always followed the well known method of regular deworming maintenance; that is, rotational two month worming program. This is the widely known and accepted worming method in existence, my vet commented, since the 70s. My vet addressed some of the targeted worms including small and large strongyles,bot larvae, roundworms, pinworms, and tapeworms, as well as the hows and whys on how they get infected inside the horse, as well as why they are a threat.

My vet continued saying that the well known problem of parasite resistance can be linked to the rotational two month deworming program we have all been taught at the proper way to treat our horses. Unfortunately in the 70s when the stronglyes were minute and not considered a large threat, they were basically getting ignored in treatment and now primarily have built resistancy to worming products. In interesting note he added was that these strongyles can actually adhere themselves inside of the intestines and basically "wait for the opportune time to become active". So while we may be administering a wormer to treat them, and while it can flush out those live ones, those "dormant" in the intestine are really just building up immunity to the deworming, and will present itself anyways.

The main point was that it is important to revisit our worming programs, specifically, catered towards our individual horse(s). His proposal is a bi-yearly worming program. Naturally this strikes a sharp chord in all of us, who may have a hard time letting go of our instinct to deworm, deworm, deworm. But in reality, that is only allowing the parasites to continue building resistance. What is the best course of action then? Because each horse while living in similar conditions can vary greatly in their own parasite counts, a fecal examination is promoted, so the vet and owner can better know which parasites need to be targeted, then determined which, if any, resistencies occur.

My vet also added that parasite control is what we are aiming for, not necessarily the implementation that all parasites need to be gone. The goal is to eradicate roughly 80% of the parasite population, and control over the amount is what is most important. Of course there is far more involved then just my simple explanation here, but it really helped to hear the current medical backing behind an industry change to how we manage our worming programs.

I was able to meet the "new" vet at the clinic as well, who came from Oregon. She talked primarily on colic, wounds, and other ailments that require veterinary care, as well as important signs to look for, among other things.

What does this all mean for Milo and I now? Well, I will definitely be working closely with my vet to ensure we are targeting the parasites localized to Milo, and not treating on this two month rotational style as previously employed. I will be collecting fecal in the coming days for a proper fecal examination, then developing a worming regime based off of what we find. My vet also noted it will be important to encourage Jake's owner to do likewise, because as the two are housed together it would be a real shame to "clean out Milo", only to not treat Jake and allow him to deposit the larvae back into the grass for Milo to re-consume.

*I am not a vet and I do not want any readers to take away from this post what "needs to be done" with their horse(s). Please consult your own veterinarian to develop a proper deworming program for your own horse(s). However, I do encourage talking with your vet and discussing the current "industry changes" towards re evaluating the way we address the worming problems at hand. 


Kate said...

Sounds similar to what our vet is recommending - we're going, for the first year and to establish a baseline, with twice a year fecal tests (spring and fall) and three times a year worming, probably moving to two times a year in the second year. But everyone's situation is different - if you're one boarder at a large boarding/show facility where horses come and go and share turnouts, your program may need to be different. Our vet also made the point that zero parasites isn't necessary.

An Image of Grace said...

Wow! Nice to see the vets catching up. I have been worming my horse twice yearly for several years now. I used to not tell people that because it would freak them out.

Rising Rainbow said...

It only makes sense that the worms would get resistant. That's the way mother nature works.

in2paints said...

This type of deworming has been a hot topic around me as well. The challenging part is that the boarding barns I've been to REQUIRE deworming every 8 weeks and if everyone at the barn isn't on the same program, it's pretty pointless for those of us who are interested.

I'm glad to hear you're considering this for Milo. I think it's a great plan.

SillyPony said...

Welcome to the bi-annual worming! I freaked out at first, too when I told my new barn I was going to buy one of those yearly packs from and they told me they only wanted to deworm twice a year. But I spoke to a few different vets, including my own university's resident Equine Vet and they all recommended the same thing. I was able to get a free fecal count this fall from said Vet/Friend. Nothing quite like collecting your horse's poop and putting it into a labeled baggie to make you feel like a weirdo!

paint_horse_milo said...

Gee, sure sounnds like Im behind the times!