By Joyce Harman, DVM
There are several ways to deworm horses without using harsh chemicals. Each of them takes a bit more work and attention to detail than using a conventional paste, however the rewards exceed the effort, if you enjoy that kind of time with your horses.
Holistic deworming does not usually work when the horse is under stress (competing frequently, working very hard or living in a crowded environment).
Boarding stables often have a high parasite load on the farm and may have horses coming in contaminating the pasture. The best parasite control is a pasture that has had the manure picked out of it regularly, so a clean place may have a low load (and you may not need to deworm if you pick up the pastures). Parasite eggs are in manure. When the weather becomes warm and moist in the spring, the larva hatch and the horse’s parasite load increases.
In an attempt to make pastures look better people often drag the fields in the spring to break up the winter accumulation. This neatly spreads parasite eggs all over the pasture and horses cannot eat around their manure piles like they will do when the piles are discrete. We all are familiar with how horses avoid manure piles in the fields but the horses are smarter than we are. They do not eat near the piles because the parasite larva are concentrated there.
So, do not drag the fields, wait for the dung beetles to do the work. Heavy use of the ivermectin and moxidectin family of dewormers tends to prevent the dung beetles from breaking up the manure, so piles will accumulate. The same may hold true for daily dewormers, though the evidence is less clear.
Your horse’s immune system must be in good working order, because ultimately it is his immune system that keeps the worms in check. Is your horse really healthy? Read this article on my web site https://harmanyequine.com/after-antibiotics-whats-next/ to find out. If not, think about the digestive system. Do you need probiotics to restore good gut function? Is your horse your horse prone to ulcers?
Perhaps the most important thing to do when starting a holistic deworming plan is that you must check your horses regularly for worm eggs by doing a fecal or a blood test. This will let you know whether the program is working or not. The best time to check fecals is just after the full moon, to get the highest counts. Take them to your vet’s office or lab. Check every 3- 4 months for about 2 years to be certain the program works, then 2 times a year after that.
There are a number of ways to deworm naturally. Do not be fooled into thinking you can deworm naturally with a single dose of a natural paste. The compounds are not that strong. Pure diatomaceous earth can be bought at many places, including your garden supply store (never from a pool supply store). This can be fed free choice, or given at about 4 oz per day for several weeks around the full moon. May need to be repeated regularly in the spring and fall or when the weather is warm and moist. Hot and dry or very cold weather means the larvae are not active in the manure. MOP is a diatomaceous earth product with some herbs added.
An exciting new product we are hoping to introduce to the USA market is called Bioworma. (www.bioworma.com). This has been well researched and is very promising product that breaks the worm cycle by acting in the manure to kill the larva. We will let you know when it becomes available.
If you have a parasite problem that cannot be cleared up using this type of product your horse’s immune system may need some help, or call the clinic for a phone consult to tailor a program for your horse. Chinese herbs are a very strong way to help deworm while making your horse healthier, but they are only available on prescription.
REMEMBER TO CHECK FECAL SAMPLES EVERY 2 TO 3 MONTHS FOR THE FIRST YEAR, AND EVERY 3 TO 4 MONTHS IN THE FOLLOWING YEARS.