The Crucial Role of Faecal Egg Count Testing in Horse Well-being 

One of the best things we’ve ever done is to do a deep-dive into equine parasitology to learn as much as we could about worms in horses and then get ourselves a really good microscope and learn how to use it to conduct faecal egg count tests for our herd of ten horses and ponies.

Before that, like most people, we just de-wormed every horse every 12 weeks. And we rotated our deworming products like just about every article on horse dewormers told us to do. Turns out both those pieces of advice are totally incorrect! And yes, even our vet at the time gave us that outdated advice.

Most of what we do now is courtesy of the amazing talent and passion of Dr Martin Neilsen, who is pretty much the world’s leading expert when it comes to equine parasitology. He’s a Danish equine veterinarian, Professor of Equine Infectious Disease, Co-Editor-in-Chief for Veterinary Parasitology and Chair of the Equine Parasite Control Taskforce. Currently working at the University of Kentucky’s Department of Veterinary Science, he has a pretty impressive list of letters after his name (DVM, PhD, DVSc DipACVM DipEVPC). He’s also great to listen to and to watch (he has numerous YouTube videos) and makes much of his knowledge freely available to the general public.

All horses have worms all of the time – and most of the time a normal worm burden doesn’t cause a problem. But occasionally worms can cause harm and it’s that harm that we are trying to avoid – especially in foals since they haven’t yet developed any natural immunity to worms. The overall aim with all our parasite control strategies should therefore be to avoid parasitic disease in our horses.

We need to do three things to achieve this goal:

  1. we need to make sure that we use dewormers that work against the worms in our paddocks
  2. we need to make sure that we are not deworming our horses unnecessarily (which can increase resistance to the dewormer medication)
  3. we need to reduce the overall parasite infection pressure in our horses’ environment.

For the first action – the ONLY way to check if the dewormer that we are using works for our worm population is by conducting a faecal egg count test before worming and again two weeks after worming.

For the second action – conducting a faecal egg count test on your horse prior to worming is the ONLY way you can know if your horse needs worming or not.

For the third action – we need to understand which horses in our herd are ‘high shedders’. High shedding horses don’t necessarily have more worms than other horses but they do shed more eggs and those eggs will re-infect all the horses in the paddock. A faecal egg count test is the ONLY way of discovering which type of shedder any horse is.

In summary, the purpose of a faecal egg count test is not to diagnose if your horse has worms or not (we know that the answer to that question is always yes). The purpose of an FEC test is to test for deworming medication resistance (very important), to check for ascarids (roundworms) in foals (very important), and to find out which horses contribute the most to the infection pressure.

Hopefully you now realise the importance of conducting FEC tests on your horses before jumping to deworming them – and we’d love for you to choose us as your FEC test provider. It’s a simple process, and we provide a nation-wide service. Simply order your test online here, fill out the form that will accompany your sample and you’ll have your results within a day or two of us receiving the sample. Best of all, every dollar we raise through our FEC test service goes straight toward our mental health programs for women and girls impacted by trauma