Ask Horse Journal: 04/09

Deworming Without Fecal Egg Counts

There were deworming recommendations in December 2008 that I’d love some clarification on. I know I need a new deworming strategy, but my veterinarian doesn’t do fecal egg counts and gives me a generic, traditional answer about deworming. I’ve mailed fecals to a neighboring state, but you tell me that samples can dry out before they arrive at the lab.

My horses range in age from a yearling to 27 years old. In the spring, they will be in the same paddock. I remove the manure daily. They are put on pasture, as time permits, during the grazing season, which I rotate, drag, clip, etc.

The 27-year-old has some immune problems, like allergies. I deworm him and the yearling at four- to six-week intervals. I’d like to use target deworming on the four- and 10-year-olds, but I need useful fecal numbers.

Can I still use targeted deworming for the healthy adults even if they live in the same paddock as two horses on a more stringent protocol’ Is it safe to stop deworming all the horses after the freeze’ Also, the article seems to indicate that we shouldn’t even bother to use drugs like the pyrantels and fenbendazole. Is that true’

As a faithful Horse Journal subscriber, I try to provide my horses the best care possible, but I admit that I long for the old days of ignorance, when we did a random rotation every two months.

Horse Journal Response

Ivermectin and moxidectin are both still considered resistance-free for adult-horse parasites (your yearling is an adult). If you want to use the other drug classes or do target deworming, you simply must find a local place to get egg counts done.

Remember that the highest parasite risk times of the year are spring, before pastures begin to dry out, and fall, before the first real frost. Check the two horses you want to do target deworming with before turning them out on pasture in the spring, then at four-week intervals after that. If you’re rotating dewormer drugs, check again two weeks after using a high-resistance dewormer.

You need to be careful, as your healthy middle-aged adults might tolerate some parasite burden and be fine, but they would be exposing your more susceptible horses to higher burdens and problems. It’s also a good idea to do a combination deworming, including praziquantel, about four weeks after the freeze and again in the spring. From there on, if you’ve been deworming regularly with ivermectin or moxidectin, your horses should be OK.

So many factors go into determining level of exposure that the old two-month rotation schedules may still work in some situations. You’re almost guaranteed to have small stronglyes return, but if they stay at low numbers that’s fine.

Papaya Pills

In your February issue, Dougie Hannum talks about giving papaya pills as an inexpensive equine ulcer medication. I’d like to be able to do that, but what is the recommended amount of pills to give my horse’

Horse Journal Response

A reasonable starting point is four times the suggested human dose, typically eight to 12 tablets twice a day (available from human health-food stores). You can use the liquid papaya concentrate product made for horses, Stomach Soother (, 847-579-1051). The dose is 2 oz. twice a day. Most horses love papaya pills.

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