Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Worm Egg Counts - how do they work and do they work?

I decided to write this blog after Ches' recent problems.  It is not intended to be about worms and worming in detail as I will cover that later in a Friday blog.

·         What is a worm egg count?
This is a test that is designed to identify your horse's worm burden.  You can then use the results to plan your worming strategy. 

·         Why should we use them?
In short, the worms are becoming resistant to the drugs contained in wormers.  This means that we cannot continue to worm our horses ‘to be on the safe side’.  To prolong the usefulness and effectiveness of current wormers we need to reduce our use of them by only worming where necessary.  This means identifying which horses actually NEED worming and which specific worms they need to be treated for.  This is done using worm egg counts.

·         How does it work?
A small sample of dung is prepared using a centrifuge and examined under the microscope to find out how many worm eggs are present. You cannot see them with the naked eye. There are limitations, encysted stages of Redworm are not mature so don’t lay the eggs which are counted in the dung sample, also, Tapeworm eggs often appear in dung samples but you still need to cover Tapeworms in your plan as the test is not definitive.   There is now a saliva test for Tapeworm.

·         Why should I use worm egg counts in my worming programme?
If you are using a full programme you can make sure it is effective. In many cases you will be able to replace some wormer doses with counts, cutting down on the amount of chemicals going into your horse and out onto the pasture. You can target the correct wormers to the horse who needs them instead of wasting doses on ‘clean’ horses.

·         Using worm egg counts
Basing your worming on faecal egg counts, or worm counts as they are known, can work really well and prove cost effective too. If you keep one or two horses at home and have full control over their welfare it is really easy to do this and with a little organisation it can work well in other situations too. All that is really needed is for one person to take control and, if you are on a yard, to make sure everyone joins in. 

·         Costs
If your horse comes back with a low or zero count you will not need to worm – this will save you money.  The worm count will show you which worms you need to target, if necessary, - this may also save you money.  The worm counts generally are done less often than we have been worming and so on an annual basis your worm related costs should be lower.  However, bear in mind this is not really a cost saving exercise, it is about trying to
prolong the usefulness and effectiveness of current wormers.

This all makes complete sense to me and for the last couple of  years I have been carrying out worm egg counts - which have always come back as 'no eggs in sample'.  I have still also been worming for encysted Redworm and Tapeworm when recommended.   I will be trying the new Tapeworm saliva test in a few weeks time!

However, with Chesney's recent weight loss and the blood test that showed he was anaemic and had a slightly higher than normal number of white blood cells the vet suggested he may have worms.  Obviously this was not possible to prove but I wormed him, and as mentioned in other blogs I gave him a Vitamin and Mineral supplement with added Iron.  After 8 weeks (we had to delay the follow up blood test as he had an abscess) he had a further blood test which showed all was normal.  Whether this was because he did have worms or because of the supplement I do not definitely know.  I discussed this with the vet and asked her if it might be a good idea to add another worming into my programme in the middle of the summer, she said yes.  So, although, I am continuing to do worm egg counts I have made my worming plan for this year to include an additional worming .... just in case.

There are a number of companies who can carry out worm counts for you.  You purchase a ‘pack’ either on line or at your local tack shop, this will usually contain a small tub, glove and form for you to complete your horse’s details.  

You collect your horses’ dung (using the clean glove) and push it into the tub.  After sealing the tub make sure you label it as requested and fill in the form so that the company know where to send the results to. 

It really is that easy!!  

So if you haven't switched from your old worming programme give it a go but DON'T forget to worm for encysted Redworm in the winter and Tapeworm if you don't do the saliva test.

This post is NOT sponsored and the opinions are my own!

Look out tomorrow for my 'How to' quick tack clean vlog. Horse Life and Love
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Until next time!

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