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Every autumn, the debate in numerous stables picks up again: should the horses be dewormed? Thankfully, the concept of selective deworming is gaining ground across more stables. This entails faecal samples being tested to determine the presence of worms in the horse. If worms are detected, the horse undergoes deworming; if not, you can sit back and relax until the next faecal examination.

Typically, only around 20% of a herd is afflicted by worm infestations, and these are often recurring cases. The remaining 80% are either worm-free or exhibit a minimal worm burden that doesn’t necessitate intervention.

For most worm types, faecal samples are a reliable means of detection. Strongylidae, the most prevalent worms, warrant consistent attention in adult horses. Young equines are prone to roundworm infestations, while older counterparts might sporadically contend with pinworms.

A severe tapeworm infection can easily be recognised as you will regularly find the white limbs in the horse’s faeces while mucking out, you don’t even need a microscope for that.

Exceptionally, stomach botfly larvae evade faecal samples as they seek refuge in the horse’s stomach for hibernation. Identifying an infestation involves recognising the distinct yellow eggs present in the coat, primarily concentrated on the horse’s fetlocks and shoulders during mid and late summer.

When a group of horses exhibits an infestation of botfly eggs, deworming should be conducted once the first frost subsides, and flying insects are no longer present.

The deworming procedure effectively eliminates the larvae within the intestines. If no adult botflies are in flight, a fresh infestation cannot take place. This disrupts the cycle, as the horse doesn’t release larvae in spring, preventing their development into adults that lay eggs.

Consistent deworming against botflies in a specific region often yields results in diminishing their prevalence. This could lead to their eventual disappearance from the region, relocating to other areas.

It wasn’t long ago that the prevailing belief was that horses would naturally worsen in infestation until they succumbed, unless regular deworming treatments every three to six months intervened.

Pferdeäpfel auf der Straße
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Recent extensive studies on deworming have revealed that horses possess innate abilities to fend off worm infestations. A well-functioning immune system and a healthy intestinal environment play pivotal roles in this defence mechanism.

This is precisely where various “alternative deworming remedies” come into play, ranging from homeopathy to herbal solutions. Their effectiveness typically revolves around enhancing the intestinal environment, rendering it inhospitable for worms. When these parasites are somewhat debilitated, the immune system can more effectively combat them, compelling their departure. Subsequently, newly ingested worm larvae find the environment so unfavourable that they opt not to settle there.

Through such measures, it’s often feasible to provide substantial support to your horse, preventing the worm population in the intestines from escalating to a level that necessitates chemical dewormer.

Traditional medicine has documented numerous plants for their worm-deterring properties, which were historically employed for both humans and animals. While there have been limited long-term studies on the effect of these herbs in horses, ongoing research is shedding light on their potential. Initial findings and results suggest that herbs can indeed offer intestinal support, preventing initial worm infestations or aiding in faster recovery after mild worm infections, even without resorting to chemical interventions.

However, when a severe worm infection is present, these measures alone often prove inadequate. In such cases, a chemical dewormer is typically necessary (always select the active substance according to the specific type of worm, avoiding unnecessary use of potent treatments).

Simultaneously, employing herbal remedies to prevent new infections is consistently beneficial. Sainfoin is a prime example of an herb that excels in parasite control. Numerous studies conducted on small ruminants, such as sheep and goats, have demonstrated that animals regularly fed sainfoin exhibit significantly reduced worm infections.

© Okapi GmbH

Preliminary research involving horses suggests that sainfoin exerts a stabilising influence on the large intestine, precisely where the problematic strongylidae thrive. This implies that sainfoin likely contributes to altering the gut environment in a manner that becomes inhospitable to worms. We eagerly await the conclusive outcomes of ongoing equine studies.

Another avenue of phytotherapeutic support lies in various herbal blends, like the OKAPI Verm Herbs, which, alongside numerous other products, have been developed in collaboration with the OKAPI team.

Such formulations harness the time-honoured wisdom of traditional medicine, repurposing herbal plants for contemporary health care. Deworming herbs can be included in the diet during autumn and spring as a preventive strategy to thwart infections and bolster the immune system’s purging efforts within the intestines.

Homeopathy also offers an avenue for worm prophylaxis. The literature describes a range of individual remedies to bolster defences against various worm types. For instance, Abrotanum C30 is recommended against strongylidae, Cina C30 against botflies, and Nartrium Sulfuricum D12 against tapeworms.

Prior to utilising homeopathic remedies, however, it’s imperative to consult a knowledgeable homeopath to ascertain whether the chosen therapy is suitable for the horse’s specific circumstances. Otherwise, incorrect application of such remedies can potentially trigger significant initial exacerbations.