There is a lot of debate surrounding worming our horses at the moment, with everyone having a different opinion about what is best. The most conflict seems to be around the use of worm counts – a simple test to determine whether or not a horse needs worming. No, they don’t test for all worms, but it’s usually a good place to start!

Here is everything you need to know about worm counts so you can make the right choice for your horse!

Westgate Worm Count Kit

Westgate & Supplement Solutions Worm Count Kit

Worm counts, also known as a faecal egg count (FEC) or a worm egg count, are simply a count of the number of large redworm eggs per gram of faeces in horses. Although not an exact figure, a worm count will give you a good idea of the parasite burden of your horse and whether or not he needs worming. Why is that important, I hear you ask; surely we just treat our horses for worms every few months? This statement was true in the past, when testing for worms wasn’t available, however it is now vitally important that we stop treating our horses like this. Why? Because the drugs we have available will stop working! There are only a few drugs available to treat worms in horses: Fenbendazole, Ivermectin, Pyrantel Embonate and Moxidectin, which are found in the wormers we use for our horses. The problem is; because some of them have been used routinely every 4-6 weeks, the worms have evolved to become resistant to them, meaning that they no longer kill them! This is most evident with Fenbendazole (the drug found in Panacur) and consequently this drug is not a good choice in most cases, as it simply won’t work! If we carry on worming routinely, this will happen with the other three drugs, so we will have no treatments left, as no more have yet been developed! To make matters worse, resistance has been reported in two out of the three remaining drugs, so now really is the time to change our worming habits!

Worm counts are really simple to do! Just order a kit from our website and follow the instructions – you’ll even get a latex glove to take your horse’s poo sample and a postage paid envelope to send it back to the lab, so there’s absolutely no hassle at all! Once it reaches the lab, it is tested and we usually received the results in couple of days. We will then contact you to discuss the best course of action. Worming will only be required if the results come back at 200 eggs per gram or over. After this, worm counts should be done every 10 weeks or so.

Worm Count Kit ready for the post!

A kit ready for the post

EquiSal Test

The EquiSal test process

There are two worms that worm counts don’t detect: Tapeworm and encysted small redworm; so whilst it is the ideal place to start a horse’s worming programme, it isn’t the “be all and end all!” Once you know the results of your horse’s worm count, a tapeworm test would be the next port of call. This is called an EquiSal test and it involves placing a swab into your horse’s mouth to take a saliva sample, which is sent to the lab for analysis. This is also very easy to do, you just need to stop your horse trying to eat the swab (like my horse did!) and make sure they haven’t eaten or exercised for 30 minutes. This test detects tapeworm antibodies, which show the presence of tapeworm, and results are low (which doesn’t require treatment), borderline and high (both of which require treatment). Don’t worry too much about this bit though, your results will come back to us and our SQP will give you a call to discuss everything.

EquiSal Samples

A variety of EquiSal samples at the lab

That just leaves encysted small redworm, which can cause major internal damage if not treated. Encysted small redworm are small redworm that are hibernating in the walls of the horse’s intestines; this occurs throughout the winter months. The problem with this comes in spring, when the temperature rises and the small redworm emerge – if there are lots hibernating this “en masse” emergence can cause colic and diarrhoea and can be quite nasty in severe cases. The best option is to treat your horse with moxidectin when it’s really cold; December or January is usually a good time. This will wipe out the encysted small redworm before they even get chance to set their alarm clocks!

Worming for Encysted Small Redworm

Worming for Encysted Small Redworm

Remember, if you ever need any help or advice on worming your horses, please just drop us an email or give us a call on 01995 672464, we’re always happy to help!

We can also formulate a comprehensive worming programme for you to work off, meaning you can pin it up at the yard and contact us or make an order when you need to take action!