Equine Parasites

Our canine and feline companions are not the only ones who struggle with intestinal parasites. Our equine companions struggle with parasites in a big way. Horses have numerous intestinal parasites types that can be very dangerous to our equine friends. This week let’s discuss some of those parasites, what risks they present to horses and how to manage them.

  • Large strongyles, also known as bloodworms, used to be the number one concern in horses. These worms can block vessels, lead to colic and cause anemia.
  • Small Strongyles are a smaller version, but very dangerous as well. They can lead to lack of nutrient absorption, damage to the intestines, diarrhea and more.
  • Tapeworms (Anoplocephala spp.) can also damage the intestinal wall and have been connected to causing colic in some cases.
  • Gasterophilus, bot fly larvae, resides in the stomach of the horse and can cause ulcer like symptoms.
  • Parascaris spp, or roundworms, are most common in young horses under three years old, especially in young foals. These worms can lead to fatal impactions and perforations in the intestinal tract of foals.

Parasites are not only adept at robbing their hosts of nutrients and causing disease, but they are also masters of survival and adaptation. Parasites have developed many ways to resist the medications we use to kill them. As veterinarians, our goals with parasites are to minimize disease and symptoms, control the shedding of parasite eggs and fight resistance with the proper choice and use of medications. Instead of simply de-worming horses on a routine, I now recommend regular fecal examinations for parasites and careful medication selection based on those results. Foals are an exception. Foals need frequent, carefully timed de-worming to avoid serious disease and even death.

When thinking about parasites and your horse, think twice before choosing a de-wormer and consult your veterinarian. The easiest choice, least expensive choice, or newest trend may not be the best choice for your horse or the future of the equine industry.

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