Equine - Deworming - Diagnosing and Treating Parasites in Horses

What are some of the parasites found in the horse, and how are they treated?

The biggies are strongyles, large and small strongyles, tapeworms, and pinworms. And we treat horses today with a paste dewormer at periodic intervals throughout the year.

Dr. Matthew DeLisle
Tennessee Equine Hospital

How do some intestinal parasites impact the health and wellbeing of my horse, and what are some complications?

They subtly impact your horse by competing for nutrients. They're stealing nutrients from the food, so your horse may not gain the weight that it needs to gain or may not have the hair coat and the quality of the hair coat they need to have. Those are some of the subtle things we see with horses with an abnormal parasite load. In some of the more severe cases, we see actual impaction from the parasites in the intestinal tract, and they include food moving from front to back; this worsens up colicking or causes recurrent bouts of colic. Deworming your horse properly is essential to the health of the horse.

Speaking of intestinal parasites, what are some signs and symptoms in a horse with intestinal parasites?

One of the signs of internal parasites is retained hair coat, abnormal hair coat, or kind of a dull hair coat. Poor body condition is another sign, even though the horse is getting fed adequately. Those are two big signs that we see.

Would I be able to see worms in my horse's stool?

Occasionally, you can see roundworms in the horse's stool and see some tapeworms in a horse's stool. Sometimes you can see pinworms or little worms.

How will a veterinarian diagnose intestinal parasites in my horse?

We do a fecal egg count. You get a fresh stool sample. We have a cool machine called a parasite machine. We can put the fresh manure in the machine, and we get an objective reading on how many eggs from those parasites are in that stool sample; this gives us an accurate idea of the parasite load in that horse.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of intestinal parasites in horses so important?

The quicker you can figure out you have a parasite problem, the faster you can fix it. Get the parasite load under control before the horse has severe health problems or irreparable health problems.

How do I choose the right dewormer for my horse?

A couple of factors come into play when picking a dewormer: time of year is one factor, age of the horse is another factor, and then parasite load or parasite burden. Those are the three significant factors that we look at when deciding what to deworm your horse with.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 591-1232, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.