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Worm Count for Equines

For years, many owners have reaped the benefits of faecal worm egg counting.

However, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has published research evidence to show that even in the 21st Century, most horses are still being wormed unnecessarily.  Apart from the obvious additional financial cost, over-worming is causing great concern as resistance to most worming products is already widespread.  The BVA estimates that just 20% of horses are carrying 80% of the worm burden.  This means that an astonishing 80% of horses are being wormed when they do not need to be.  The BVA has called for urgent and essential action to halt this trend.

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The BVA recommends the way forward is to carry out worm counts and worm only when absolutely necessary – and then only with appropriate wormers.  This is known as targeted parasite control – targeting only those horses that have medium to high counts.

“Copper” grazing next to a pile of her droppings containing Ascarids. She had been regularly wormed with Fenbendazole, and carried a worm burden that had developed resistance to the active ingredient.  We are delighted to report that, thanks to the owner acting on the SQP advice of the Wormcount.com Animal Health Advisor, Copper’s health and well-being have greatly improved.

 

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If you find Pinworms or evidence of their eggs (egg sacks under the tail, scrubbed and sore tail) then call us for advice on how to rid your horse of this horrible parasite.

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Wormcounting under the microscope

So what is a worm count?

  • A Faecal Egg Count or FEC counts the number of worm eggs in your horse’s faeces (droppings).
  • The results are presented as ‘eggs per gram’ (epg) of faeces. There is an easy to understand key on your Wormcount.com result sheet.
  • The number of eggs is an indication of the number of adult worms in the gut of your donkey or horse.
  • Lungworm and liver fluke screens are also available for at-risk horses and donkeys.

 

Why should I use a worm count?

  • It will help you to decide whether you need to worm
  • It can tell you if your worming regime is working
  • It can give you information about the amount of contamination going onto your pasture.

 

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So when is it necessary to worm?

There are certain situations which will require chemical or herbal worming of equines.   Worm counts are taken using measured samples of poo, examined under a microscope, any eggs are counted and a calculation is carried out to give the result in eggs per gram (EPG).  The lowest count you will generally see is fewer than 50 epg (< 50 epg).  We can screen down to 10 epg in certain circumstances but this test is usually requested by a Vet for specific health reasons.  Statistically, it is incorrect to say that your horse is clear – or has a zero count – as it is impossible to be sure, if the count is that low, that the sample you have provided contained the eggs.

To mitigate this risk, at Wormcount.com we screen every sample twice.  We also retain a portion of the sample so if an unexpected result is found, we screen it again.

You or your yard owner must make a decision on what worm threshold you will accept before worming your horse.  An example  would be to worm any horse showing a burden of over 250 epg or more.  Some yards will accept 350 epg.  Any fewer than 250 epg would, under most circumstances, be left in the horse for its own immune system to deal with.

well_horseThere may be many reasons why your horse has a high (over 1200 epg) worm burden. Even horses that are regularly wormed can have significantly high worm counts. You will receive an email with your worm count results, that has a key explaining where your result fits into the scale, and recommendations as to what you should do about it.

But the main thing is DON’T PANIC!  You have come to Wormcount.com Veterinary Laboratory – the right place to help you quickly and effectively.

When this picture was taken, “Olli” had a worm count of 7500 epg.  His owner received help and advice from us to lower his count to < 50 epg.  This is all part of the Wormcount.com service!  

 

Your horse does not have to look “wormy” to be wormy – if he does, it may be too late!

However, please remember that worm counts cannot show encysted redworm larvae as they are immature and not yet laying eggs.  Although we do occasionally observe tapeworm egg sacs in samples, it must be noted that worm counts are not a definitive test for tapeworm.  Therefore the BVA advice is to worm for these plus bot fly larvae in early winter.  If you are concerned about tapeworms, an Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbant Assay (ELISA) antibody blood test, performed by your Vet, is helpful to confirm either way.

An effective regime is to carry out three worm counts and one winter dual-worming per year.  Your Wormcount.com Animal Health Advisor will be delighted to talk you through this system.

donkey_wormcountsFor Donkey owners, your Wormcount.com Animal Health Advisor has lots of free advice if your donk requires worming.  We know that as Donkeys have different requirements to horses, not all horse wormers will be suitable for your donkey.  Just contact Wormcount.com for free SQP advice and we will be delighted to help.

At Wormcount.com we do not simply carry out FECs.  We also screen for lungworm and liver fluke.  Please contact us for more information on these tests. Order your worm count kit here.