Non-horse people always want to know why horse people are so obsessed with horse poop. Why we constantly check it, obsess over its frequency or infrequency, its size, its consistency, its moisture content, its absence of worms, color, smell, and uniformity. Heck, we may even pick it up for a closer inspection - with our bare hands. And it’s true, we may harbor concerns over our horse’s excrement that may border on the insane or liken to a “sickness,” but we have good reason gosh darn it! If you own a horse, you want to be familiar with your horse’s fecal matter. Become friends with it, besties even. This will help you in the future, especially when it comes down to the health of your horse. And we all want that.
Deworming is just an extension of our poopy passion. When do we do it, how often and with what? The deworming protocols of yesteryear have officially retired and they’re out sailing off the coast of Florida in their boat called “The Overkill.” See, the amount of deworming that owners were expected to do in the 90’s was frequent and included the rotation of each deworming drug available. The problem with this method is that it does not address the parasite burden that your individual horse has. It also creates a parasite population that is resistant to the limited deworming medications that we have to control the parasite problem.
Current research shows that it is much more effective to have a fecal sample of each horse collected and reviewed under a microscope to see just how many parasite eggs your horse is shedding, specifically strongyle and roundworm eggs. This will show us whether your horse has a heavy parasite burden or not. Based on this information we can then be more strategic about our deworming schedule. If we need to be more aggressive, then we will be by crashing that parasite party taking place in your horse’s colon. If your horse does not have a heavy parasite burden then there is no party to crash. This way, we can save the efficacy of each of the preciously few drugs we have left to deworm with. Horses are now being dewormed 2-3 times per year; a far cry from the every-few-weeks schedule that we used to follow.
Not all dewormers are created equal. Each different deworming drug is only effective against specific parasites. There is no single Excalibur sword of dewormers that exists to terminate all parasitic organisms (sigh, that would be wonderful though, wouldn’t it?). So we must also be strategic about which dewormer we should unsheathe at that time. The “let’s just buy whatever is on sale” method is not ideal and there is a very real possibility that it won’t help your horse.
It is also extremely important that everyone deworms their horse according to their weight. Many people just give their horse an entire tube of dewormer. We strongly advise against this. It is easy to think that because dewormers are available over-the-counter and do not require a prescription, that they can be given in any old quantity. A dewormer has been designed as a poison to kill parasites without affecting their host. To use it safely is to dose it to your animal according to the instructions. We don’t want any of our patients to experience toxicity over a routine deworming. There are also specific guidelines to follow when deworming miniature horses, donkeys, mules, and foals.
For more on this topic, our recommended deworming schedules, please view the information on our website that our wonderful Dr. Galen has put together on this very subject to make your life so much easier. And as always, call us with any questions you may have.