The arch nemesis of horse owners everywhere is the parasite. When left unchecked in your horse’s digestive tract, these freeloading organisms can cause inflammation, decrease the nutrients your horse gets from their food, and could keep your animals from their peak performance. The folks at Zoetis have some solid advice to keep your equine healthy, including pasture management, fecal egg count (FEC) tests, and an individualized deworming schedule.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has urged horse owners to move away from deworming a whole herd at once to a more individual approach. That’s because horses at greater risk (foals and older horses) often need more frequent treatments. Additionally, over-treating can cause a resistance, which can worsen the problem.
Cold weather does kill off larvae. However, eggs go dormant over the winter and become active again in the spring. Pasture management along with anthelmintic treatments can be effective at reducing parasites when combined with a handful of other solutions, including:
- Rotate your pastures and don’t overgraze
- Limit one horse to two acres of pasture
- Remove manure at least two times per week
- Feed grain in buckets or tubs
- Feed hay in a rack or net
- Avoid feeding in groups
- Rest paddocks between species
If you’re spreading manure back onto pastures, be sure to do it during warm weather and allow 30 days fallow. This can help eliminate some parasites. When composting, ensure the pile reaches between 130-150º to kill the parasites.
Ask your veterinarian to do an FEC reduction test once a year for your horses. This will give you and your vet the information you need to identify high shedders (those with an FEC count of 500 or above), and create a deworming program for each of your equine.
Yearlings and 2-year-olds should be treated as high shedders and get four treatments per year. For adult and elderly horses, it’s best to work with your veterinarian to determine the types of parasites you need to control and the active ingredients needed. We suggest the following program:
Spring (April): Zoetis QUEST® Gel
This Macrocyclic Lactones compound treats many parasites, including encysted small strongyles.
Summer (July): Zoetis ANTHELCIDE® EQ Paste
The Benzimidazoles chemical class treats for large and small strongyles, among others.
Fall (October): Zoetis QUEST® PLUS Gel
This Combined Macrocyclic Lactones (with Praziquantel) treats a wide spectrum of parasites, including tapeworms.
Winter (January): Zoetis STRONGID® Paste
The Tetrahydropyrimidines chemical class treats large and small strongyles, and more.
Coastal Note: Do not use QUEST Gel or QUEST PLUS Gel in foals less than 6 months of age or in sick, debilitated and underweight horses. These products should not be used in other animal species, as severe adverse reactions, including fatalities in dogs, may result.
First, if you don’t have a scale at your place, you can use this handy horse weight calculator. Once you know the approximate weight of your horse, dial it into the applicator. Next, remove the cap, and with your hand over their nose, insert the applicator into the corner of the horse’s mouth. You do not need to jam it into the back of their throat. Once inserted, simply inject the treatment. If some falls to the ground, estimate how much was lost and use a second applicator to administer that amount.
Coastal tip: be sure your horse doesn’t have anything in their mouth when you are giving medication.
Finally, dispose of the leftover applicator and dewormer properly. The chemicals in the treatment can be fatal for dogs if they eat it.