Postal worm count specialist Westgate Laboratories has launched a new test for equine tapeworm.

The test – developed and run by Austin Davis Biologics (ADB) at its laboratory in Northamptonshire – is the first of its kind, says Westgate, as it uses saliva to give an accurate, cost-effective measure of a horse’s tapeworm burden.

It is hoped the EquiSal Tapeworm Test will make routine testing for tapeworm more accessible to horse owners, improving horse health and enabling targeted worming to help combat drug resistance.

According to Westgate and ADB, to complete the test, a sample of the horse’s saliva is taken using a specially developed swab. This is sent off to the EquiSal laboratory where the level of tapeworm-specific antibodies is analysed.

David Booth, managing director at Westgate Laboratories, said the team was “very excited” about the development.

“This will revolutionise the way we worm for tapeworm in horses. Worm counts and saliva testing must now become the core of everyone’s worming programme if we are to preserve the few effective wormers we have left.”

Corrine Austin, director at ADB, said reports from tests carried out so far have found the number of horses with a tapeworm burden is lower than expected.

“Only 19 per cent of horses tested had a tapeworm burden requiring treatment,” she said. “This percentage is even lower in well-managed yards. Many animals are being overwormed for tapeworm when routine dosing strategies are used.

“Routine dosing increases the speed at which worms gain resistance, and with only two drugs licensed for tapeworm in horses, this should be a major concern to horse owners.”

An EquiSal Tapeworm Test kit costs £17.95 per horse and contains everything needed to take the test. Customers can visit Westgate Laboratories’ website or telephone 01670 791994.

Current advice for customers is to test twice a year at six-monthly intervals and a minimum of four months after the last tapeworm dosing.

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