Vets and Horse Owners Team Up for New Deworming Strategy

When Kevin Nelson, DVM, of Union Grove, Wis., hosted a barbecue and fecal egg testing party, it was the most well-attended educational and social event Bristol Veterinary Services had ever sponsored. Barbecue and fecal egg testing? That's right.

"We wanted to talk with horse owners about old deworming vs. new deworming strategies and thought having an event, with fecal egg testing right on site, was a creative way to boost attendance," Nelson said. "It worked. We had more horse owners there than at any other educational event we had held in the past. What that told us is horse owners are interested in and receptive to changing their deworming strategies."

The original concept of rotating equine deworming products as a way to reduce the development of resistance was created more than four decades ago. Standard practice since then has been to rotate different products throughout the year but to treat every horse identically, without knowing if that horse is a high, moderate, or low shedder of parasite eggs. Although seemingly a sound strategy at the time, it simply doesn't make sense to treat every horse the same given previous research has shown that 20% of horses harbor 80% of the parasites.

"Based on scientific evidence, we now know there is a more effective way to manage parasites," said Hoyt Cheramie, DVM, MS, manager of Merial Large Animal Veterinary Services. "Through fecal egg counts, we can identify the high, moderate, and low shedders and treat each horse based on its specific needs.

"Then, following the individualized treatment plans, we can use fecal egg count reduction tests to help determine whether or not specific products are effective against the parasites present on a particular farm," Cheramie continued. "Without this information, horse owners may be deworming in the dark--and perhaps spending money on products that aren't effective."

"Once we started educating people about the importance and value of strategic deworming, they really showed an interest in adopting this approach," said Nelson. ""It was simply a matter of sharing the information and showing them through fecal egg counts how every horse is different. We were then able to talk about specific programs tailored to each horse's needs, which can ultimately result in spending less money and not giving a horse medication it doesn't really need."

Besides educating horse owners individually or through events, veterinarians can refer them to www.rethinkdeworming.com, Merial's website dedicated to advanced parasite management which is part of the "Greetings Human" campaign, which uses humor and parasite banter to help educate people about what can be perceived as a somewhat dry topic.

In addition to access to important information on the site, www.rethinkdeworming.com offers veterinarian-focused features such as fecal egg count tracking charts and educational materials.

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