How can I know if my horse is already infected with tapeworms?

Regular parasite control is essential to keeping a horse healthy, and itís the only way to ensure tapeworms arenít the cause of colic or larger health concerns, says Hoyt Cheramie, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, Manager, Equine Veterinary Professional Services, Merial.

Itís difficult to know for certain if a horse is infected with tapeworms. There probably wonít be any clinical signs until the horse is in serious distress. Unlike some other parasites, you will rarely see worm segments in manure, and there is no reliable fecal diagnostic test.1

We know that tapeworms ó especially the Anoplocephala perfoliata species ó are very common in grazing horses of all ages. Across the country, more than half of all horses will be infected during their lifetime.2

It used to be thought that tapeworms could live in a horse without really affecting its health, but researchers disproved that idea, showing that A. perfoliata can be a major cause of colic. Some research suggests that 80% of ileal impaction colic cases are associated with tapeworms,3 and they also can cause many other kinds problems in the digestive system. For instance, tapeworms attach to in the ileocecal area and cause inflammation, ulceration and bowel obstruction.1 Plus, tapeworm infections can cause a potentially life-threatening condition known as intussusception, which is the telescoping of the intestine into itself.1

With such a serious threat, and no convenient or reliable method of detection, routine preventive measures are absolutely critical. Keeping horses in optimal health means controlling tapeworms. But choose your dewormer carefully: Many products currently on the market do not have a label claim for tapeworms. ZIMECTERINģ Gold (ivermectin/praziquantel) is one of the few parasite control products that does control tapeworms ó among the 47 other different species and stages of parasites it treats.3 Itís more than 99 percent effective in eliminating A. perfoliata in horses.4

To be as effective as possible, parasite control should be a regular, ongoing practice.  Tapeworm control is truly one of the most important things you can do to keep your horse in good  health. To create a comprehensive deworming plan for your horse, consult your veterinarian.

Dr. Cheramie specializes in colic and performance-limiting problems in horses. He has practiced equine veterinary medicine in Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia and Illinois.

WARNING: Do not use in horses intended for human consumption. Not for use in humans.

Keep this and all drugs out of reach of children. There have been rare reports of swelling and irritation of the mouth, lips, and tongue following administration of ZIMECTERIN Gold. These reactions have been transitory in nature. Do not use in other animal species as severe adverse reactions, including fatalities in dogs, may result.

1Reinemeyer C. Update on equine tapeworms presentation notes. Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association Equine Committee September 21-23, 2003.

2Reinemeyer C, et al. A prevalence survey of antibodies to Anoplocephala perfoliata in horses from the United States. Proc WAAVP 2003:18.

3Proudman CJ, Trees AJ. Tapeworms as a cause of intestinal disease in horses. Parasitology Today 1999;15(4):156-158.

4Based on data provided in FDA Freedom of Information summaries.

ģZIMECTERIN is a trademark of Merial. ©2008 Merial Limited. Duluth, GA. All rights reserved.

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