A new survey has found more than a third of horse owners never conduct faecal worm egg counts (FWECs).

According to the British Riding Clubs’ horse health study of 559 horse owners – carried out by Zoetis earlier this year – 36% of owners never conducted the counts. This is despite mature horses needing a count every six to eight weeks during May to September to identify whether there is a need to dose for redworm.

Zoetis said the FWEC approach saves the cost of worming horses unnecessarily, while protecting the health of those that do. The approach protects the efficacy of wormers, said the company, as it helps to slow resistance. The test can also help horse owners check their wormer is working if a FWEC is taken before and after administration. Therefore, over time, the frequency of FWECs may be able to be reduced for certain horses.

However, said Zoetis, owners must understand a standard FWEC will not reliably identify tapeworm, encysted small redworm or bots. For these, a licensed wormer needs to be used on a strategic basis, usually in autumn and spring for tapeworm and late autumn/early winter for encysted small redworm. And while foals and yearlings benefit from regular FWECs, the results need to be interpreted more cautiously and worming is likely to be required more frequently than in adults.

It’s also important to weigh every horse before worming to make sure the correct dose is administered as under-dosing is a cause of resistance.

Zoetis vet Wendy Talbot said: “The survey results are worrying, indicating a high number of horse owners are still unaware of the most efficient and responsible way to control worms. It’s so important they discuss their worming programme with their vet or a suitably qualified person (SQP) to understand the role of FWECs and to make sure they choose the right methods and products for their horse’s circumstances.”

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