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The Importance of Faecal Egg Counts for Horses During Winter

The Importance of Faecal Egg Counts for Horses During Winter

 

As winter approaches, horse owners need to be extra vigilant when it comes to managing their horses' health. One crucial aspect of horse health that can't be overlooked is the presence of internal parasites. Parasitic infections can cause a range of health problems in horses, including weight loss, poor performance, and even death. That's why regular monitoring of the parasitic load through faecal egg counts is so important for horses.

 

So, what is a faecal egg count?

A faecal egg count is a laboratory test that measures the number of parasite eggs present in a horse's faeces. The test is simple and non-invasive, requiring only a sample of fresh faeces. The sample is then sent to a laboratory, where it is processed and examined under a microscope to determine the number of parasite eggs present.

 

Why are Faecal Egg Counts Important?

Regular monitoring of the parasitic load through faecal egg counts is essential for maintaining the health of horses. Faecal egg counts can help identify the presence of parasitic infections early, allowing horse owners to take proactive steps to prevent the spread of parasites within the herd. By identifying and treating parasitic infections early, horse owners can prevent serious health problems and ensure their animals remain productive and healthy.

 

The Importance of Conducting Faecal Egg Counts During Winter

Winter is a particularly challenging time for horses when it comes to parasitic infections. During the winter months, horses spend more time indoors, particularly in grazing areas with high rainfall and humidity, which can lead to an increased risk of parasitic infections. Winter conditions create an ideal environment for parasites to thrive and spread to our herd. Colder months also can slow down the development of larvae, meaning that there can become a build of parasites in the horse’s digestive system.

Common equine parasites include roundworms, tapeworms, and bots, among others. These parasites can cause a range of health problems, including colic, weight loss, diarrhoea, and respiratory problems.

Regular monitoring of the parasitic load through faecal egg counts is particularly important during the winter months. By conducting regular faecal egg counts, horse owners can identify the presence of parasitic infections early and take proactive steps to prevent their spread within your horses.

The WAAVP (World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology) recommends conducting faecal egg counts during the winter months, particularly in areas with a high risk of parasitic infections. By monitoring the parasitic load of horses during the winter months, horse owners can identify any risks or concerns early and ensure that the health of their horses are not compromised.

 

How Often Should Faecal Egg Counts be Conducted?

The frequency of faecal egg counts depends on a range of factors, including the age of the horse, the number of horses in the herd, and the local climate. Generally, it's recommended to conduct faecal egg counts at least four times a year. However, in some cases, more frequent testing may be necessary, particularly if the local climate is particularly favourable for parasitic infections.

 The Importance of Faecal Egg Counts for Horses During Winter

 

What Do Faecal Egg Counts Tell Us?

Faecal egg counts provide valuable information about the health of a horse's digestive system. By measuring the number of parasite eggs present in the faeces, horse owners can determine the level of parasitic infection in their horses. The World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) recommends the following guidelines:

  • Less than 200 eggs per gram - Low infection risk
  • 200 to 500 eggs per gram - Moderate infection risk
  • More than 500 eggs per gram - High infection risk

Based on the results of a faecal egg count, horse owners can determine whether their horses require treatment for parasitic infections. Horses with a high infection risk should be treated with anthelmintic drugs, while horses with a low infection risk may not require treatment.

 The Importance of Faecal Egg Counts for Horses During Winter

 

How to Conduct a Faecal Egg Count

Now that you’ve learnt more about the importance of faecal egg counts and what it means for your horses and property, let's break down how to conduct your own faecal egg count. 

Conducting a faecal egg count is a simple and straightforward process that can be done at home or through a veterinarian. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Collect a Fresh Sample of Faeces: Collect a small sample of fresh faeces from your horse. It's important to collect the sample as soon as possible after it has been produced, as parasite eggs can begin to hatch and larvae can move within the faeces after a short period of time.

  2. Prepare the Sample: Mix the sample well, ensuring that it is homogenous. Remove any visible plant matter or debris from the sample.

  3. Weigh the Sample: Weigh 3-5 grams of the prepared sample using a scale.

  4. Prepare the Flotation Solution: Prepare a flotation solution by mixing a measured amount of salt with water in a graduated cylinder. The exact ratio of salt to water will depend on the specific flotation solution being used.

  5. Pour the Solution: Pour the flotation solution into a test tube, filling it about three-quarters of the way.

  6. Add the Sample: Add the prepared faecal sample to the test tube, ensuring that it is fully mixed with the flotation solution.

  7. Centrifuge: Centrifuge the test tube for a few minutes until the parasite eggs float to the surface of the solution.

  8. Examine Under Microscope: Using a microscope, examine the surface of the solution for parasite eggs. Count the number of eggs present and record the results.

Once you have completed the above steps and you have recorded your results, you can refer to the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) guidelines to determine if the number of eggs present is low, medium or high risk of infection.

Regular monitoring of the parasitic load through faecal egg counts is essential for maintaining the health of horses. Faecal egg counts can help identify the presence of parasitic infections early, allowing horse owners to take proactive steps to prevent the spread of parasites within the herd. By identifying and treating parasitic infections early, horse owners can prevent serious health problems and ensure their animals remain productive and healthy.

Winter is a particularly challenging time for horses when it comes to parasitic infections. By conducting these regular faecal egg counts during winter, horse owners can be sure that these issues are addressed early and you can maintain low-zero egg counts.

Reducing the use of anthelmintic drugs, increasing efficiency and profitability, and improving the health of horses are all important benefits of regular faecal egg counts. By conducting faecal egg counts at least four times a year and following the guidelines set out by the WAAVP, horse owners can ensure their horses remain healthy and productive for years to come.

The Importance of Faecal Egg Counts for Horses During Winter

 

Let’s keep our horses healthy all year round! Don’t skip out on conducting important parasitic checks. If you are unsure on conducting these methods shared above, please refer to your veterinary clinic for further advice.


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