May 07 2015

Fecal Egg Counts

Not Just a lot of “Poo”

Parasite prevention is important. Internal parasites can cause severe colic, diarrhea, and general unthriftiness. Resistance to our current dewormers is becoming more common, therefore, owners and veterinarians need to be proactive in preventing resistance and doing what is best for our horses. A combination of pasture management and a fecal egg count program is the best method.

Pasture management

In the south, parasite eggs on pasture are at their peak from September through April.

Pasture management strategies:

  • Don’t overstock pastures
  • Regularly dispose of manure and don’t put into grazing pastures
  • Use feeders for hay and grain rather than feeding off the ground
  • Drag pastures only during summer months and leave unoccupied for two weeks
  • Keep foals and weanlings separate from yearlings to help prevent ascarid infections

Fecal Egg Counts (FEC)

The new recommendation is to deworm based off fecal egg counts rather than an every other month rotation. FEC’s are useful to determine:

  • Which drugs are effective on a particular farm
  • Which horses are high vs low shedders by nature (this allows us to SPECIFICALLY tailor the program to your horse as those that are low shedders will require less frequent dewormings)
  • The interval between treatments that is required (this way we’re not putting unnecessary chemicals in our horses when they don’t need it)
  • If resistance is developing on a farm (we can monitor trends to see if resistance is developing or going away)

All horses should be dewormed in the late fall with a product that kills tapeworms and bots as these rarely show up on our standard McMasters test. We have also added discounted fecal egg counts to our equine wellness program as a benefit to those on the program.

Fecal Sample Collection

Fresh manure samples (about a handful amount) should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and should not be more than two hours old. They should then be refrigerated as soon as possible. Please label them with your horse’s name, your name, and the date. They are fine refrigerated for a couple days, but plan the collection at a time that is convenient for delivery to us within a day or two.

Photos courtesy of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP)

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