Thursday, February 25, 2010

Creepy Crawly

As things continue to warm and the ground begins to thaw, I start wrinkling my nose when I step out to do chores. Springtime on a horse farm gets a little .. uh. pugent.. shall we say.. as the snow and ice disappear, giving way to a couple weeks of mud and muck. This time of year also gets me thinking about worms . You know, those nasty little creatures that can cause a myriad of health issues such as colic, heart problems, weight loss and even behavior issues. The mere mention of things like Strongyles or Ascarids makes my skin crawl just thinking about it!

Spring time worming is just around the corner and normally, like thousands of other horse owners across the country, I would be getting ready to dose everyone with a syringe full of whatever I had on the rotational 10-12 week worm schedule.

.....Not this year folks. This year, I am taking a little different approach and I invite all of you to consider doing the same.

40 years ago, when effective wormers entered the market, worming became part of the regimented schedule of equine health care maintenance.. Initially, the vet came out twice a year, wrestled with your horse to stick a tube down his nose and then poured some foul looking liquid into his stomach. Life got easier for everyone shortly thereafter, when paste dewormers came available. All you had to do was read the directions and figure out when to rotate the wormer type every 8-10 weeks. A few people took this one step further and thought well, if a little is good, a lot is better….

All that enthusiastic deworming has now caused us a bit of a problem.

Research has shown that the worms have developed resistance to deworming drugs, of which fenbendizole (Panacur), oxibendizole (anthelcide) and oxfendazole, have seen the most widespread resistance. So, as resistance increases, the ability to use these drugs effectively decreases… What goes up, must come down….

I decided to see how my little herd was fairing in this department. The last thing I want to deal with is issues in my herd with heavy worm loads due to drug resistance. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention…

What’s a responsible horse owner to do?? Well for starters, only deworm when necessary and in order to determine when that is??? Contact your vet and have them do an FEC, or Fecal Egg Count.

I have made arrangements with my vet to do an FEC for each one of my 6 horses. It will be a bit pricey but I suspect in the long run, it will be offset by what I spend in wormer over the course of time. Unfortunately, there is some strategy to getting this done. In order to get the best results from an FEC is all about timing. Based on the last time I wormed and with what product, I have to wait so many weeks beyond that time for the vet to be able to do the testing at the potential heaviest egg count, if there is one…Mid to late March is the window for me.

So, in a couple of short weeks, that time will arrive and I will start the tedious process of collecting a fistful of manure from each individual (with gloves ofcourse) I hope the kids will cooperate in supplying those samples on command (cough) but if not , I am prepared to wait them out... glove and baggie in hand.

I hope that the FEC will shed some light on which of our horses needs worming more , or less, and if we have any resistance. This new information , combined with our pasture management methods will certainly give me a little less to worry about.

Here is a link on the subject that I thought was interesting to share.

So, bloggers....Have any of you done FEC studies on your herds/horses? What have you found? I would love to hear about it.


Mel said...

I usually rotate like this:

2 years of minimal worming (3x/year using ivermectin - 2x and pyramnel pomaoate) and then a year of 4x/year using 3 different wormers and utilizing the fenbendazole purge (2x dosage for 5 days) etc.

Fecal tests do not pick up all worms so I don't rely on them too reasoning behind my worming program is that although Farley is kept at home in a siutation that would lead to minimal worm load (dry lot, only horse, minimal contact with other animals, manure picked up often and removed), she travels alot, has contact with other horses, and spends weekends in pens that have manure from other horses from unknown worming schedules. I feel that we can get away with a minimal worming program most of the time, however occasionally I need to make sure I do something more.

My minimal worming program uses ivermectin 2x because the most typical parasite I have to worry aobut here is bots - her legs are always covered with them during the season and it has nothing to do with contact with other horses. Since that is a known factor, I use ivermectin 2x a year (at height of season, and after the first freeze) and use pyrantel poamate for the remaining worming in order to get a different chemical just in case.

Sorry this is rambling. Hopefully it makes sense.

Dianne said...

I think a fecal egg count is a good place to start. It will not pick up tape worms or encysted strongyles. Your veterinarian may know when strongyles are likely to emerge in your area.

There is a do-it-yourself fecal check, but I don't know how dependable it is. Put each fecal sample and a small amount of water in a glass jar with a lid. Place the jars in a warm place and wait (I don't recall how long) to see if anything hatches.