Managing internal parasites in horses is crucial for their overall health and well-being. Winter can be a quieter time for parasites as colder temperatures inhibit the development of worm eggs and larvae, so it's the ideal time to focus on good management practices to reduce future parasite burdens. Here are some tips to put into place over the winter season.
Maintaining a consistent worming program for adult horses throughout the year based on Faecal Egg Counts (FECs) is essential for combating internal parasites. Consult with your veterinarian to develop a tailored plan for your horses based on their FEC result, age, health status and parasite risk factors. Focus on using a wormer that targets strongyles, bots and tapeworm at the start of winter.
Winter is the ideal time to target bots in your horse’s stomach. Bot eggs are commonly laid on the forelegs by botflies during summer. Once licked off the legs by the horse, the larvae migrate in the oral cavity and eventually make their way to the stomach for overwintering. Here they attach to the stomach wall and feed during the colder months, before continuing their development in spring to become bot flies. Administration of a mectin-based wormer such as Equimax or Equimax Elevation during winter will kill any bot larvae that are present in the horse’s stomach over winter and therefore reduce the number of adult bot flies in the warmer months.
Tapeworm is an increasingly common parasite of horses in Australia. These worms are involved in serious bowel disorders including colic, intestinal blockages and even death, so it is important to treat horses for tapeworm infections at least once per year, preferably twice, ideally before and after winter (eg. May and September). Many common horse-worming products do not control tapeworms. Be sure to choose a broad-spectrum worming product such as Equimax or Equimax Elevation that contains the active ingredient praziquantel, which is highly effective against all three species of tapeworm.
Many horses in Australia will continue to be grazed in paddocks during winter, so therefore it is still important to manage pastures in the colder months to reduce parasite burdens. In fact, we can make use of the cold climate to help reduce worm burdens in the warmer months. The development of parasite eggs into infective larvae is inhibited in cold temperatures. Resting pastures for extended periods during winter can therefore help decrease parasite larvae on the pasture, minimizing the risk of reinfection. Remove manure regularly from paddocks, yards, and stables to reduce parasite contamination and larval development.
Maintaining a clean and hygienic environment for horses that are stabled or yarded in winter is crucial in preventing parasite infestations. Regularly clean stables, removing soiled bedding and manure. Consider using deep bedding and regularly muck out to prevent parasite eggs and larvae from contaminating the living areas. Avoid overcrowding in yards or small paddocks as this can increase parasite transmission.
Each horse's health and susceptibility to parasites can vary, so individualized management is essential. Monitor horses closely for signs of parasite infestation, including weight loss, poor coat condition, and digestive disturbances. Regularly perform FECs to assess the effectiveness of your worming program and detect any resistance issues. Consult with your veterinarian for guidance on specific management practices for horses with high parasite burdens.
With proper planning, horse owners can effectively control internal parasites during the colder months. By targeting the right parasite species, implementing good pasture and stable management, and following the Gold Standard Worming program designed for their horse, owners can help to safeguard their animals' health and minimize the risks associated with internal parasites.