Fall is the Time to Make Sure Your Horse is Tapeworm Free

Pasture as source of tapeworms in horses.
Pasture as source of tapeworms in horses.

Many horse owners believe that the risk of tapeworms disappears as temperatures cool during fall and winter. Quite the opposite is true. Horse owners need to look at the entire life cycle of the tapeworm to understand their horses’ risk levels and treat them accordingly.

Keeping horses tapeworm free

Keeping horses tapeworm free

No reliable fecal diagnostic test for tapeworm infections in equines exists, but selecting a deworming product that contains praziquantel, which is approved for the treatment of tapeworms in horses, helps remove them.

To thrive, tapeworms need both a definitive host (where they mature) and an intermediate host (where they reside while in immature stages).The horse serves as the definitive host for the tapeworm, while soil mites are the intermediate host. Mites, which can be infected with cysticeroid (larval tapeworms), are found in pastures.

Once a grazing horse eats the infected mites, the cysticeroid develops into adult tapeworms in the intestine of the horse within four to six weeks. The tapeworms are then passed through the horse’s feces back into the pasture, allowing the tapeworm life cycle to continue.

According to Horsemen's Laboratory tapeworms are diagnosed by clinical signs, history, and location. Tapeworms have been reported in certain parts of the United States. Horseman's Laboratory has found several horses with individual tapeworm eggs in their stool. Habronema have certain areas of the country where they are much more common than others do. They are also often found in biopsies taken from chronic non-healing skin ulcers.

Currently, there is no reliable fecal diagnostic test for tapeworm infections as there are for most other equine parasites. However, selecting a deworming product that contains praziquantel, which has been approved for the treatment of tapeworms in horses, is a way to help remove them.

Controlling tapeworms is important because studies have linked them, specifically Anoplocephala perfoliata, to spasmodic, impaction and intussusception-related colic. One study reported that 80 percent of ileal impaction colic cases examined were associated with tapeworms.

Other findings from the same study showed 22 percent of spasmodic colic cases included tapeworm infection. These infections can also result in a life-threatening condition called intussusception, which occurs when the small intestine telescopes into the cecum, resulting in a blockage that can be fatal without surgical intervention.

In addition to managing tapeworms, horse owners should control other parasites by working with their veterinarians to establish the most effective plans based on their individual horses’ needs.

More information about effective deworming strategiesand ZIMECTERIN®GOLD (ivermectin/praziquantel) can be found at www.zimecterin.com.

ZIMECTERIN Gold combines ivermectin, a leading ingredient that controls a wide variety of parasites, and praziquantel, an ingredient that specifically controls tapeworms. Together, they provide excellent equine parasite control. ZIMECTERIN Gold is approved to control more species and stages of equine parasites than any other brand, including benzimidazole-resistant small strongyles. It controls 47 species and stages of equine parasites in all.

Plus, ZIMECTERIN Gold was the first dewormer approved by the FDA to effectively control tapeworms* with a single dose. Tapeworms have been recognized as a significant threat to the health of horses.

About the Author

Flossie Sellers

As an animal lover since childhood, Flossie was delighted when Mark, the CEO and developer of EquiMed asked her to join his team of contributors.

She enrolled in My Horse University at Michigan State and completed a number of courses in everything related to horse health, nutrition, diseases and conditions, medications, hoof and dental care, barn safety, and first aid.

Staying  up-to-date on the latest developments in horse care and equine health is now a habit, and she enjoys sharing a wealth of information with horse owners everywhere..