More than a third of British horse owners never conduct faecal worm egg counts (FWECs), a survey has shown.
The British Riding Clubs Horse Health survey, commissioned by animal health company Zoetis and conducted in February, revealed that 36 percent of the 559 horse owners surveyed never conducted the tests.
In mature horses, a faecal worm egg count should be carried out every six to eight weeks during May to September in Britain to identify those that need dosing for redworm and those that don’t.
Zoetis urged horse owners to make use of the tests, which it described as of immense value in implementing worm control strategies.
A regular faecal worm egg count for every mature horse aged over three years during the summer months was the most efficient and cost-effective way to manage worm burdens during the grazing season, the company’s worming experts said.
The tests indicate how many eggs each horse is contributing to the contamination of the pasture.
Eggs hatch into worm larvae, so the higher the egg count the more larvae will be on the grazing, increasing the risks of re-infecting all the horses with worms.
Using the tests saves the cost of worming horses unnecessarily, while protecting the health of those that do and the effectiveness of the wormers, by helping to slow resistance.
The test can also help horse owners check that their wormer is working, if one is taken before and after administering the dose.
Over time, the frequency of tests may be able to be reduced for horses showing consistent egg-shedding levels.
Regular tests during the summer, together with good pasture management – ideally picking up manure on a daily basis – will help to keep grazing as clean and worm-free as possible, and horses healthy.
Zoetis said it was also important to weigh every horse before worming to make sure the correct dose was administered, as under-dosing was a cause of resistance and the wormer may be less effective.
The company stressed that a standard FWEC would not reliably identify tapeworms, encysted small redworms or bots. For these, a licensed wormer needed to be used on a strategic basis. This is usually autumn and spring for tapeworms and late autumn/early winter for encysted small redworms.
Foals and yearlings also benefit from regular egg counts, but the results need to be interpreted more cautiously and worming is likely to be required more frequently than in adults.
“The survey results are worrying, indicating that a high number of horse owners are still unaware of the most efficient and responsible way to control worms,” Zoetis vet Wendy Talbot said.
“It’s so important to discuss your worming programme with your vet or a Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) to undertstand the role of FWECs and to make sure you choose the right methods and products for your horse’s circumstances.”
The British Riding Clubs Horse Health Survey was conducted online. It comprised 21 questions on general horse health, care and management.
More information: www.wormingyourhorse.info.