Protecting your horse against parasites is part of good
barn management. Whether you are the owner of single horse
or make your living as a boarding stable, you should have
a good parasite prevention plan in place. Deworming your horses
at regular intervals will keep parasites at bay and will ensure
your horse's maximum health and safety.
What are some of the more common nasties just itching to sponge
off your equine friends? Check out these parasite profiles.
* Large Strongyles (Strongylus vulgaris and Strongylus
edentatus). Otherwise known as bloodworms, large strongyles
are an internal parasite known to be the most destructive
and deadly of them all. Why are they so destructive? Well,
as immature larvae migrate through the blood vessels, they
destroy arterial walls, block or rupture blood vessels, impair
circulation, and damage organ and tissues. Not exactly the
most polite of guests, are they? Seriously, large strongyles
are no joke! The havoc they wreak can result in colic, anemia,
diarrhea, fever, lethargy, depression, and loss of appetite.
How to prevent large strongyles from getting the best of your
horse? Use a dewormer that treats both adult worms and the
more destructive arterial larvae. Ask your veterinarian for
a recommendation, as many dewormers treat only the less dangerous
* Small strongyles. Small stronglyles live and migrate
within the intestinal tract. While they don't travel any further
than this, they too can pack quite a punch. Small strongyles,
if left undetected, can cause inflammation of the intestines,
anorexia, weight loss, diarrhea, and colic. A good dewormer
is your best defense.
* Ascarids (Parascaris equorum). Ascarids are also
known by their more common name of roundworm. While ascarids
are very dangerous parasites, they most often affect very
young horse such as sucklings, weanlings, and yearlings. Ascarids
in the migrating larval stages can damage a horse's lung and
liver tissue. Some of the signs include lethargy, coughing,
fever, pneumonia, and other infections and issues affecting
the respiratory tract. Ascarids who reach the adult stage
hang out in the small intestine, where they can cause problems
like colic, ruptured gut, blockage, and death. They are dangerous
nasties indeed, but can be easily prevented with a parasite
* Bots (Gastrophilus). How's this for weird? Bots are
considered an internal parasite, and yet they live on the
outside of a horse's body. Say what? Well, here's how it works.
In its larval stage, the botfly lives in the horse's stomach
and mouth. As it reaches maturity the bot leaves the internal
environment and hangs out on the outside of the horse, where
it creates more larvae to be ingested by the horse. At the
very least, bots cause inflammation and sores in the mouth.
They can also cause more serious problems like stomach irritation
and ulceration and perforation of the stomach wall. In extreme
cases, bots can block stomach outflow into the small intestine,
causing colic and possibly death. Effectively ridding your
horse's of bots requires a two-pronged approach. First, you'll
need to treat the outside of your horses by removing bots
with a special comb. Then you'll have to follow up by administering
* Pinworms. (Oxyuris equi). If your horse seems uncomfortable
around the tail region—say there's a lot of itching and scratching
going on—suspect pinworms. Pinworms live and mate in the horse's
rectum, and cause such unpleasant issues as tail rubbing.
Again, the right dewormer is all it takes to rid your horse
* Intestinal threadworms (Stronyloides westeri) Threadworms
usually affect young horses. If your foal has diarrhea, lack
of appetite, is losing weight or is not growing what you think
is the right amount of hair, consider threadworms as a possible
culprit. Since many dewormers don't effective treat threadworms,
talk to your vet about a good course of action.
* Summer sores (Habronema and Draschia) If a fly deposits
larvae in the open skin or a wound on the horse's body, the
result is often summer sores. The larvae can cause conjunctivitis,
nodules in the stomach wall, and gastritis.
Remember, there's no room at the inn for parasites! With good
barn management, you can ensure that your horses remain parasite
About the Author
Ron Petracek is the founder of Equine Internets vast 15 site
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and always the barn door in left open on purpose.