AAEP Launches Equine Parasite Control Guidelines

Photo: Kristen M. Janicki, MS, PAS

The first official set of guidelines for parasite control in horses is now available on the American Association for Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) website. An AAEP-appointed subcommittee of researchers, clinicians, industry representatives, and veterinary practitioners spent the last several years formulating the document.

“We are facing a significant paradigm shift in equine parasitology, and there has been lots of confusion and controversy in our field in recent years,” said Martin K. Nielsen, DVM, PhD, Dipl. EVPC, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Science at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center. Nielsen is chair of the subcommittee.

Nielsen explained that guidelines for parasite control in horses are highly needed to help veterinarians and their clients maneuver in the challenging landscape between the many different parasite species infecting horses and the increasing levels of drug resistance in several of these. Parasite control is not as straightforward as we once believed.

“We have long been emphasizing there is no one-size-fits-all program for parasite control, which is a true statement but does not provide much help for the veterinarian in the field,” Nielsen said.

The guideline document clearly states that the goal should never be to eradicate any parasite. Not only is this impossible, but the inevitable result is accelerated development of parasite drug resistance. Instead, the goals are to minimize the risk of parasitic disease; control parasite egg shedding; maintain effective drug control; and avoid further development of anthelmintic (drugs used to treat infections with parasitic worms) resistance as much as possible.

For adult horses, the guidelines state that one or two yearly treatments are sufficient to prevent large strongyles infection. Cyathostomin (small strongyle) parasites can be treated based on strategically performed fecal egg counts. Tapeworm treatments should be included annually in most regions.

In foals, it is not recommended to base treatments on egg counts. Instead, foals should receive about four anthelmintic treatments their first year. The guideline provides information about the timing and choice of anthelmintic drug. Veterinarians should continue treating yearlings and 2-year-olds as “high” shedders and administer approximately three yearly treatments with effective drugs. In all age groups it is highly recommended to perform routine screenings of anthelmintic efficacy with the fecal egg count reduction test.

“We hope these guidelines will reduce the confusion and controversy about parasite control and hope to continue to update this document as we generate more information,” Nielsen said.

To read the complete guidelines, visit http://www.aaep.org/custdocs/ParasiteControlGuidelinesFinal.pdf.

Shaila Sigsgaard is an editorial assistant for the Bluegrass Equine Digest.

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