From an email to me:
Hi Dr. Tucker,
Yes, I wonder about your recommendations per worming horses. It is springtime. I would think worming will change the pH of the stomach, so want some input as to how to proceed. Thanks.
Life is always a balance between what should be normal and the addition of anything that would change this balance. This includes food, medicine, stress and environmental factors. A normal immune system will take care of intestinal parasites if the system is not overwhelmed. But in today’s world with confinement for our horses, most horses eat where they defecate.
The best solution for parasite control is to clean up the manure from where they eat. This requires picking up the piles in the paddock either by fork or by vacuum at least every 3 days.
Removing all grain and grain/plant byproducts from the horse’s life and adding protein with a full spectrum of amino acids to restore the health of the immune system are both additional steps in controlling parasites.
But right now, with the increasing daylight of spring, any encysted larvae will be coming out of winter mode and shedding eggs. If your horse has any egg count in a fecal test, deworm once a week for 3 weeks with ivermectin. Kill the little monsters. Don’t worry about the gut pH or inflammation. The battle must be won. Then commit to building the immune system and cleaning the environment.
A word about fecal egg counts. Let’s say your horse tests at 100 eggs per gram. 1 gram times 454 = 1 pound so 454 times 100 eggs per gram = 45,400 eggs per pound of poop. This is why I say “any” eggs in the test are worth treating.
Treat the infection first and then restore the health of the gut because the damage from intestinal parasites is as important as all other causes of gut inflammation. The real problem comes from cleaning the environment which needs to be done AT LEAST every 3 days. The egg that sheds in the feces takes 3 days to develop into larvae that can infect the horse. Every other day is a good protocol to reduce the contamination in your paddock.
In the wild, horses defecated here then walked far away till the next defecation. In a week they would be 100 miles from their first pile. Some say that deworming medications are not natural but then you can also say fences are not natural either.
One last thing. Did you know that ivermectin (Eqvalan and others) and parental tartrate (Strongid and others) are approved for use in humans (image below)? Yes, humans get intestinal parasites too. But we don’t eat where we defecate since toilets were invented not too long ago. We also use knives and forks, the best anti-parasite invention ever created along with soap and toilet paper.
In the gallery: pictures of manure vacuums for cleaning up the pastures and one farm’s approach to manure control.