Tuesdays with Tony
For those of you who missed my Deworming Seminar on Thursday- you have offended me down to my kitty core. I understand it was chilly and those were the days when it got dark at 6:30 pm, but all I wanted was to tell you my secrets about evil worms that like to live inside horse’s guts. Well, my secrets are out now, so I may as well share them with all of you.
Back in the day when Zimectrin, the first oral paste dewormer, stepped onto the scene, it seemed like a good idea to deworm your horse every 6 weeks or so. After all, more is better, right? Then, some different dewormers came on the market, and it seemed like an even better idea to rotate between these products, and use a different one every 6 weeks. Heck, vets even recommended this.
Well, it turns out this wasn’t such a good plan. You know how antibiotic resistance develops when antibiotics are over-used or used improperly? The same thing is now happening with dewormers. By rotating between deworming medications, we have shown the parasites every drug in our arsenal. This has given the parasites the ability to become resistant to every one of our deworming products. And that, folks, is terrifying.
So why can’t they just come up with a new deworming medication? Well, unfortunately it’s not a simple process. And “they” (the drug companies) aren’t too inclined to invest a bunch of time and money into research and development of a new product when people are still buying their available products like hot-cakes. (Mmm, hot-cakes…) Also, even if somebody decided today to start developing a new dewormer, it would be about 10 years before we would see it on the shelves. That’s just how long the whole process of drug development, clinical trials, and FDA approval takes.
So basically this leaves us with a handful of equine deworming medications, and a population of parasites that is anywhere from a little bit resistant to completely resistant to them. Dewormers that used to work for 4-5 months are now only effective for 4-5 weeks. Deworming your foal with one product as a baby essentially means that product will not work the next time you go to use it. Depending on what type of worms you are trying to target (roundworms vs strongyles) you may as well be giving your horse apple-flavored toothpaste rather than some of our available dewormers.
Our Plan to Fight Back
Even though the outlook is dismal right now, vets (with the help of some very smart researchers) have come up with a plan to fight back.
So, we all agree that showing the parasites every dewormer multiple times is a bad plan, right? Instead, let’s only show the parasites ONE dewormer (Equimax), ONCE a year (in the fall). Fall is the best time of year to do this because that’s the peak season for parasite breeding here in Florida. Equimax is the product we recommend because it has Ivermectin to get the problematic small strongyles, as well as Praziquantel to take care of the tapeworms that don’t show up reliably on fecal checks.
But Tony, you may ask, what if my horse is a high shedder? Well, let’s first remember that only 20% of horses carry 80% of the worm burden. This means that the chances your horse is a high shedder are slim. That being said, we are happy to do a fecal egg count on your horse in the spring, and IF he comes back as a high shedder, we will give you special permission to deworm him a second time.
What about Foals?
Ok, foals are entirely different creatures when it comes to parasites. As babies, they are still susceptible to Ascarids (roundworms), plus they haven’t developed their own immunity against strongyles yet. For this reason, I have developed a unique protocol for these special ones, we’ll call it the ‘Tony protocol’. Step 1: Deworm your foal at 2-3 months with Panacur. Step 2: Bring us a fecal sample to check at 5-6 months…we will tell you what to do. Step 3: Bring us another fecal sample at 9 months; we will tell you if your foal is a high shedder. Step 4: Deworm at 1 year with Equimax.
Yearlings to 3 year olds still get special treatment as they continue to develop their natural immunity to parasites. You may deworm them once in the spring with plain Ivermectin and once in the fall with Equimax. It’s a good idea to bring us a fecal sample in the summer for your 1-3 year-olds to see if they require a 3rd deworming.
What else can I do?
Since you are going to be saving a bunch of money by NOT buying dewormer every 6 weeks, why not invest in a nice pitchfork and wheelbarrow, and maybe a fancy composting system at your farm? It’s a fact that removing fresh manure from your pastures drastically reduces worm burdens in grazing horses. Plus, it’s a great way to get a lifetime supply of high-quality fertilizer! Just remember to never spread fresh manure on pastures where horses will be grazing. Manure has to go through the composting process in order to reach high enough internal temperatures to kill parasite larvae.
It’s important to remember that 80% of horses are only carrying 20% of the parasites, so there’s a good chance that your horse does not need to be dewormed at all. A simple fecal analysis will tell you if you need to or not. Out of the 30-something fecal analyses we did for those that came to the seminar last week, only 4 of them were high shedders. 4! That’s pretty solid reasoning as far as this cat is concerned.
Now that you know my secrets, I need you to make me a promise. I need 100% cooperation for this once-a-year deworming master plan to succeed. We can defeat the parasites, but we need your help! So, promise me that you will tell all of your horse friends THE PLAN. If you came to my seminar, or read my blog, you are now an honorary expert on deworming horses. And if any of your friends have questions, tell them to call me….at which point I will direct them to the nearest doctor.
Thank you for your attention. *APPLAUSE*
P.S. As a special gift from me to you, here’s a link to the video of the seminar. You will really have expert status with facts to quote after you watch this! Parasites and Deworming Seminar
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Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!