Farm animal and equine parasite prevention

Parasites are never a benefit to an animal

Parasites are organisms that derive their nourishment and shelter from other creatures (hosts), such as your horse and other animals. Without treatment, most parasites live their entire lives with a host. As the host, a parasite’s presence is never a benefit to your animal. Parasites can cause a myriad of diseases, like anemia (low red blood cells) which make the host weak, lose weight, have a decreased appetite, and have exercise intolerance. They can cause internal damage to the intestines, as well as the liver, lung, blood vessels (aneurysm), brain and spinal cord. Parasites can even cause the death of a host.

External and internal parasites

Parasites come in many shapes and sizes. Many of the external parasites can be seen with the naked eye, like ticks and lice. Others, such as mites, require microscopic examination to find as they are very tiny and live in the skin. Internal parasites are not necessarily microscopic. They are worms of various sizes or can be single cell organisms. However, the internal parasites are rarely seen due to spending their life cycle inside of the host. To determine the presence of internal parasites, a fecal exam is required. The feces is processed in such a way as to concentrate any parasites or their eggs which then can be seen via a microscope. There are a few internal parasites that are only found in very tiny numbers or only have eggs produced intermittently, so they may not be seen in every fecal sample. Evidence of these parasites may be found in special blood tests.

It is important to note that some parasites of animals are also zoonotic. Zoonotic means that the parasites can also infect humans.

Routine exams and deworming

It is important for your animals to have an exam by a veterinarian twice a year. At this exam, they should be checked for external parasites and a fecal examination should be performed. Fresh feces can be collected and a deworming protocol determined based on the results. The deworming protocol differs from the historical standards of empirical deworming and wormer rotation. Newer and more specific deworming protocols are recommended to help prevent parasite resistance to current dewormers. This process is important to make sure that dewormers remain effective.

Introducing new animals

There are additional steps that can be taken to prevent or minimize parasite levels, such as preventing new sources of parasites. One new source of parasites are new animals introduced to the group. Keeping the group healthy is possible with a little diligence. New animals should be kept separate from the group and tested for parasites prior to introduction.

Parasite prevention

Healthy animals have as few parasites as possible. The best parasite prevention and treatment protocol is one that you make with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian knows your animal and what the best recommendations are.

D. Raenell Killian, DVM
Companion & Large Animal Veterinarian

Prescott Animal Hospital & Equine Center