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Equine Parasites: Keeping Your Horse Healthy and Parasite Free

Your horse is probably living a fairly comfortable life. A nice dry stable to call its own, nutritionally balanced feed, a veterinarian and ferrier at your back and call – all these make for a good life.

On the other hand, this kind of lifestyle brings with it the fact that the lifestyle of the parasites that surround horses has also increased in comfort. If your animal is stressed, if the stable is home to many other animals, if your horse does not get to go out to pasture that often, and a myriad of other conditions all increase its risk of parasitic infection.

To this end, parasite control is at the forefront of many a horse owner’s mind. De-worming is probably the most common method used to limit the count of parasites that take up residence inside

your animal. Yet you will also need to take a close look at the animal’s living environment. If you and your horse live in a climate that is warm year-round, then your horse will most likely be subject to worm infestations year-round. Regardless where you live, if the stable or pasture are crowded, your horse will have a much higher risk of infection than if it was an only horse.

The main problem that crowded animals face is the fact that the number of parasites, their shed eggs and hatching larvae are so numerous that another animal is bound to get infected. If you do have many horses on your pasture, you will want to drag is weekly to break up the manure and let the sun kill off the eggs and larvae; if your animals are in a crowded stable, you will want to clean it out daily. In addition to the foregoing, a higher risk of work infestation should be responded to with a more frequent schedule of de-worming procedures. It is very important to follow the geographical guidelines with respect to the creation of a proper worming schedule. Freezing winter temperatures will permit you to only de-worm in spring and fall, whereas warm winter climates will most likely mean that you will need to de-worm at least once a month. Another factor that plays a large role in the de-worming schedule is the actual kind of de-wormer you use – some will kill a multitude of worms, while others target a specific parasite.

Foals will require special attention, since they have no natural immunity to these parasites. At one month of age, the young horse is ready for its first dose, and its weight will determine the proper dosage. Continue the treatment monthly, allowing for the foal’s growth and increase in weight. A veterinarian will be able to help you figure out which kinds of de-wormers are appropriate for these young animals.

If your animal displays the tell-tale signs of a heavy parasite infestation, such as a poor coat, a pot belly, or other signs of being unwell, your veterinarian should be consulted for a fecal exam to pinpoint the kinds of parasites at work. This will indicate the kind of de-wormer to use. Additionally, you will need to follow your veterinarian’s advice in such cases, since a large amount of killed worms within the horse presents its own set of problems, such as colic and founder. As always, paying close attention to the directions on the label is a key factor to success!

Another time that you will want to de-worm an animal is when you introduce a new horse to your pasture or stable to reduce the introduction of any parasites to your already existing herd. If you have a heavily crowded stable or pasture, you may actually want to consider putting all of your animals on a daily de-wormer, simply to keep the number of parasites that are being spread back and forth at their most manageable levels.

Do not be alarmed if you find tapeworms in your horse’s feces. Even the horses on strict de-worming regimens will frequently have these parasites living in their intestines. You will be able to purchase a specialized de-wormer to get ride of them. Keep in mind that de-worming is more than simply cleaning out your horse’s intestines, however. There are a number of parasites that may begin their life in the horse’s gut, but they will eventually travel to different tissues. Working with your veterinarian will ensure that your animal will remain healthy and comfortable.

Read the next horse health tips article on Single-celled killers.
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