Micronized Coconut and Onion: A Natural Equine Dewormer?

Micronized Coconut and Onion: A Natural Equine Dewormer?

The researchers concluded that both treatments were effective at reducing fecal egg shedding of trematodes, nematodes, and cestodes in this population of horses, but that palatability could be an issue for some horses.

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Could two common plant extracts hold the key to solving our equine deworming dilemmas? Recent study results from Germany suggest that a mixture of micronized coconut and onion have the potential to substantially decrease fecal egg counts in horses, and could possibly be used in place of the traditional anthelmintics (deworming drugs) to which many worms have become resistant.

In the two-part study, Heinz Mehlhorn, PhD, a professor at University of Duesseldorf, and his colleagues employed two groups of horses (one group of eight and one group of 12) naturally-infected mainly with nematodes (roundworms) and small numbers of trematodes (flukes) and cestodes (flatworms) to evaluate the palatability and anthelmintic capacity of two similar treatments:

  1. Treatment 1—700 grams of 40% micronized (pulverized into particles a few micrometers in diameter and, thus, easier to mix into normal feed) onions, 40% coconut flakes, and 20% glucose (essentially, sugar) and sugar beet; and 2.
  2. Treatment 2—1.2 kg of 25% coconut flakes, 25% micronized onions, and 50% horse feed muesli (a granolalike concentrate mixture produced by the German company Hoeveler).

Before the treatments began, Mehlhorn and colleagues performed fecal egg counts on all study horses. They repeated the fecal egg counts on Days 1, 3, and 5 after each 10-day treatment.

Part 1

The eight horses in Part 1 of the study had medium shedding rates, except for the youngest one, which had a high shedding rate. The researchers used this group of horses to test the palatability of the two treatments. They separated the horses into two subgroups of four and fed each group one of the two treatments for 10 days.

The researchers found that the horses preferred Treatment 2, so they used that mixture in the second part of the study, in which they tested the treatment's efficacy.

When evaluating post-treatment fecal egg counts, the team found that all but one horse (who did not consume most of his treatments) had significant reductions, some resulting in a zero egg count by Day 5 after the 10-day treatment. An egg count of zero doesn't necessarily mean the horses were worm-free, but it does indicate they were shedding few-to-no eggs.

Part 2

In the second part of the study, the 12 horses' fecal egg counts ranged from low to high shedding rates before treatment began. In this part of the study the researchers aimed to evaluate the treatment's anthelmintic capacity.

Similar to the results from Part 1, horses in the second group showed a considerable reduction in fecal egg count numbers after 10 days of treatment. The team noted that, again, one horse that did not consume all his treatments did not have the same parasite egg reduction.

The researchers concluded that both treatments were effective at reducing fecal egg shedding of trematodes, nematodes, and cestodes in this population of horses, but that palatability could be an issue for some horses.

Mehlhorn reported that he and his team recently patented Treatment 2, and their product is currently available in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar and will soon be available in Germany. Mehlhorn said he hopes the product will be available in the United States in the future.

The study, “Nature Helps: food addition of micronized coconut and onion reduced worm load in horses and sheep and increased body weight in sheep,” was published in Parasitology Research

About the Author

Casie Bazay, NBCAAM

Casie Bazay holds a bachelor of science degree in education from Oklahoma State University. She taught middle school for ten years, but now is a nationally certified equine acupressure practitioner and freelance writer. She has owned Quarter Horses nearly her entire life and has participated in a variety of horse events including Western and English pleasure, trail riding, and speed events. She was a competitive barrel racer for many years and hopes to pursue the sport again soon.

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