Worms In Horses

Why Are Worms Such A Problem?
Unlike other equine diseases, worms are a VERY common problem. No horse or stable is ‘worm free’ - such a thing
does not exist! This isn’t to say that worms aren’ t a problem - in fact, horses suffering from worm infestation can become very
ill, dull and listless. Worms can also KILL horses, very suddenly and without warning. There are a variety of different worms common
to horses, all of which can affect different internal organs and cause serious damage. 

How Do Worms Hurt My Horse?

Worms are small, but can be deadly! In large numbers, worms and bots can make life for your horse very unpleasant. Worms, such as redworms (Small Strongyles) actually eat away at your horse’s intestinal walls, feeding off blood in the tender areas. Other worms, such as Tapeworms feed on the feed your horse eats, meaning that your horse actually gets little nutrition out of what you feed him! Bots attach to the walls of the gut with strong suckers and cause very serious damage to the stomach lining! Bloodworms can block blood vessels, as they travel in the arteries and irritate the areas. Roundworms irritate the lungs and windpipe - they cause coughing and pneumonia! There are a ton of parasites which can each cause a lot of damage to your best friend, so a regular worming and drenching program is very important!

Symptoms Of Worm Infestation

Common Symptoms

  • Poor Coat - Poor Coat
  • Lethargic/Listless Horse - Reluctant to move
  • Pale Gums - Due to poor blood circulation
  • Tail Rubbing - Worms create itchy bottoms!
  • Poor Condition - General unhealthiness
  • Trouble Keeping Weight On - Worms getting his feed
  • Low Immunity - Susceptibility to weaker illnesses
  • ‘Summer’ Sores - Open sores caused by worm larva

Serious Symptoms

  • Bouts of Colic - Due to digestive upsets
  • Diarrhoea - Due to digestive upsets
  • Emaciation - Horse becomes extremely thin
  • Torsion - The twisting of the gut

So, What Can Be Done?

The first step is the most basic - making sure your horse is wormed EVERY 6 - 8 WEEKS! It is so, so important to administer REGULAR doses of worming paste to your horse, no matter how old/young/tall/fat/chestnut/well groomed or healthy your horse is! Regular doses help to control reinfestation, which is VERY common. Drenching should also be done regularly, around every 6 months.

Drenching is where a tube is inserted through the nostril to the stomach, and the worming treatment is administered in this fashion. This is a very direct worming treatment, but it should only be done by vets, as it can lead to death if the tube reaches the lungs. Other factors are important such as pasture management and making sure your worming program is designed to kill allll types of worms and bots.

Good Management = Dead worms

The things you can do to keep your horse healthy.
Rotate Wormers

Worms can develop resistance to worming paste after a period of time, so make sure you rotate your worming paste regularly. Also, make sure that your horse is wormed with wormers specifically designed to kill different sorts of worms! Some pastes on the market today can kill up to 12 different worms with one paste, but it’s important to worm for all of the following: Large Strongyles, Small Strongyles, Pinworms, Tapeworms, Lungworms, Threadworms, Bots, Intestinal Threadworms, Neck Threadworms, Large Mouth Stomach Worms, Hairworms & Ascarids!

Rotate Horses

Horses should be moved from one paddock to another, particularly after drenching, to rest one paddock so it can be harrowed and cleaned. This reduces the risk of re-infestation, as this breaks the life cycles of worms. Pregnant mares should be moved to a fresh, clean paddock before foaling, and wormed regularly! Manure should be cleaned up around stables and in yards and paddocks to keep worms under control. If possible, all horses on the agistment/stud/farm should be wormed at the same time every 6-8 weeks, as this REALLY helps to break the worm life cycle. Harrowing should be done in every paddock that is too large for manure collection, as this breaks up the manure, and if rested, will also greatly damage the worm or bot larvae in manure.

Give The Correct Dose

Use a weigh tape to get an accurate measure of your horse’s weight. Then make sure your horse receives the dose it’s supposed to. It’s better to SLIGHTLY OVERDOSE your horse than to UNDERDOSE him! Make sure your horse doesn’t spit out the paste, and if he does spit it out, that you give him some morrrrreeeee! Horses who are hard to worm can miss out on paste. Worming isn’t just a
‘that’ll do’ situation, it’s important) Worming too frequently can help worms develop resistance, though, so be sensible with your worming routine!

Good Horse Management

Particularly at agistments and studs where horses are coming and going frequently, the worm problem needs to be seriously addressed. Horses should all be stomach drenched PRIOR to arriving at a new agistment, and should be wormed regularly to fit in with the new agistment’s worming. Numbers of horses in each paddock should be kept to a minimum, and rotational grazing and cleanliness should be at a high standard. Grouping horses together on a property can allow for quick and easy treatment of horses or not just worming, but other medications, and makes routine treatments such as worming very rythmic.

How To Worm A Horse - Step By Step Instructions

1. Use the adjustable screw on your worming paste to choose your horse’s weight from the weights listed on the plunger of the tube. The screw simply allows you to squirt only the required dose of wormer, which is particularly useful when you don’t need to use all the paste in the tube at once.

2. Make sure you’ve got a grip on your horse’s lead rope, and that you’re safe at all times. You might need a helper if your horse is difficult to worm. Next, take the cap off the wormer and gently put your fingers in the side of your horse’s mouth. The safest place to do this is where the bit would sit, as horses don’t have teeth between their molars and incisors. Your horse should open his mouth up, as light pressure from your finger will tickle his gums!

3. Take any opportunity available! Grab that worming paste and slip it into the corner of the mouth, and aim it towards the back of the horse’s throat. Squirt the paste in all the way - the screw will prevent excess wormer from squirting out. Then take the tube out of the horse’s mouth. As quick as possible after worming, raise the horse’s head to prevent him from spitting the paste out. Some horses will try to trick you, so keep your wits about you, and wait for the horse to swallow the paste. Remember to reward your horse with a pat once the ordeal is over!

4. Some horses who are hard to worm, a worming bridle might be useful - it’s simply a strap that fastens around the horse’s head, with a special bit that slips into the mouth. The bit has a hole in the centre of it, which connects to one side of the bridle. The wormer sits on the side of the bridle, held in place by a clamp. Worming made easy - all you have to do is push the plunger down, and it’s all done!

Worm Life Cycles

The rotten creatures just don’t die! Seriously though, worm life cycles in general can be sometimes very difficult to break. Many worms and larvae are hardy and can withstand the elements, and are just waiting to be digested by your horse so they can hatch and suck some blood!

The cycle is very simple, and begins when larvae are found on the ground and on moist grass. Horses graze on the grass, eating the larvae with the grass. The larvae then mature to full size inside various internal organs, and begin to live off the horse. Where the worms attach and what damage is done depends on the type of worm. These worms then multiply, and worms s uch as the Large Strongyle worm live in the intestine, the eggs are passed out through the horse’s manure. The manure eventually breaks down and the eggs hatch, and become larve crawling around in the grass, waiting to be eaten again.. And so it continues...  

This is why breaking the life cycle stops the worms breeding. Worming pastes each have an active ingredient, and many pastes are available containing different active ingredients. Your worming pastes need to be rotated on an annual basis to target different worms, and to keep resistence to a minimum. Changing brands may not do any good, you need to make sure you’re changing to a different chemical in the wormer. Read the packages to check! There are clues in the names of wormers - for example, some active ingredients in the same chemical family are ‘abamectin’, ‘ivermectin’ and ‘moxidectin’ which can be found in some wormers where the name of the product ends in ‘ectin’. So changing from one ‘ectin’ wormer to another won’t help, you need to look for another active
ingredient, and develop a worm management plan based on yearly rotation of different chemical compounds. Develop a specific worming program for your horse, and if you can, your ENTIRE property.

Your vet can assist in monitoring the effectiveness of your worming program by performing an egg count. A sample of fresh manure is taken, and your vet can tell you not only how severe or controlled the infestation is, but also recommend other worming control ideas or a worming program for your horse, depending on the conditions of your agistment or property.

Got A Wormy Horse?

If you think your horse has worms, there are a few things you must do.. Firstly, if you haven’t been worming your horse, and the condition of your horse is quite serious, RING A VET. Vets, those marvellous people, can take a manure sample and do a worm egg count. They can recommend the right paste for your horse, and advise you on how best to treat your horse and improve your pasture management. Each worm infestation should really be considered as an individual case, as so many factors can affect worms and worming!

If you can clearly see worms in your horse’s manure after worming, you need to follow a strict worming program to ensure that they continue to die. Again, advice from a vet may help you in selecting a paste that is right for your horse, depending on the type of worm and the conditions of your agistment.


This article is courtesy of Horsepower.

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