Deworming is an acknowledged necessity and regular practice for most horse owners nowadays.
Yet, many have not thought about the damage tapeworms cause every spring.
“Tapeworms can cause unseen damage, so it is important to make sure your horses are protected,” warned Dr. Hoyt Cheramie, equine veterinarian.
“Before horses start grazing on the green grass this spring, remember to ensure your deworming program includes tapeworm control,” Cheramie insisted.
Tapeworms are transmitted by an intermediate host which is a mite that lives on pastures.
“Grazing horses often ingest the mite and become infected,” Cheramie explained. “Once infected, it takes the tapeworm about two to four months to mature inside the horse.
“Spring is a perfect time for transmission of the tapeworm,” Cheramie informed. “As horses begin to get out and graze, they may become infected with tapeworms, which can lead to colic.”
One study indicated that 81 percent of impaction cases were tapeworm associated.
However, tapeworms can also cause many other kinds of problems in the digestive system.
“For instance, tapeworms may cause inflammation, ulceration and bowel obstruction,” Cheramie said.
In young horses, tapeworm infections can cause a potentially life-threatening condition known as “intussusception, which is the telescoping of the intestine into itself,” Cheramie explained.
These health concerns aren’t just for a particular age or locale. “Tapeworm infections can occur in all ages of horses greater than nine months of age, and are common in all grazing horses,” Cheramie informed.
In one survey, 95 percent of the horses were infected with tapeworms. “It’s important to make sure parasite control programs include effective tapeworm control,” Cheramie said.
However, many dewormers are not effective against tapeworms. “Horse owners should look for ingredients like ‘praziquantel,’ which is found in broad-spectrum dewormers,” Cheramie said.
“Spring is a great time to consider your parasite control program and to make sure that horses are set up for a healthy year,” Cheramie said.
“Treating for tapeworm infections can easily and inexpensively help prevent the potential health concerns associated with tapeworms,” Cheramie summarized.
However, the veterinarian also warned that dewormers can be hazardous if consumed by humans.
Likewise, there have been reports of horses exhibiting swelling and irritation of the mouth, lips, and tongue following dewormer administration. “These conditions will typically soon resolve, but a veterinarian should be contacted if they should persist,” Cheramie demanded.
Additionally, horse dewormers can have more adverse reactions when administered to other animal species, including certain fatalities, the veterinarian advised.