This is a question I often struggled with. I used to deworm once or twice a year, as I wanted to take care of parasites, but I didn’t want to overload my horses’ systems. I gave (and still do) Diatomaceous earth every day in their feed, but still wasn’t sure I was “getting it all”.
Recently, a friend was ordering some fecal testing kits online and she asked if I wanted to place an order with hers. I agreed and she sent for the tests. Getting the sample proved more difficult for one of my mares, who suddenly became “bashful” and would not “go” when I was out doing my chores! Previously, she’d “have to go” the moment I was finished cleaning and had already dumped on the manure pile! A few days later, she relented and I sent my two samples to their lab.
I’m glad I did. My IR mare turned out to be completely clean, no sign of any parasites or eggs at all. My other mare tested positive for Strongyle eggs, 300 per gram. While that is not excessive, it still needed treated. I felt good knowing that I didn’t need to give my IR mare any dewormer, as this is not necessarily good for them and COULD induce a laminitic episode if I wasn’t very careful. I also felt good knowing exactly what I was deworming for, so that I could choose the dewormer accordingly. If I should have had to give my IR mare the dewormer, I would have given her Liver Support solution from For Love of the Horse. This would have ensured that her liver was able to process the chemicals correctly without taxing her system.
My fear (and my friend’s) was of the dewormer themselves, as there has been a lot of hype lately about dewormers causing all sorts of health problems, such as neurological issues. My friend did a bit of looking into this and found that those people gave TOO MUCH dewormer for the weight of their horse. I understand this as I have seen people deworm a small horse and just give the entire tube, thinking it is going to “get more” of the parasites and that it won’t hurt. It CAN. My friend also researched which dewormers take care of a particular parasite the best, and chose from there. (She was kind enough to share her findings with me!)
I feel better about the whole thing and I decided I will have a fecal done twice a year from here on out. If they are parasite free, great! If not, I’ll choose a dewormer that will take care of that particular parasite. I want to know exactly what my horses are dealing with and treat it accordingly instead of guessing. I will continue with the Diatomaceous earth the rest of the year. I feel that my horses’ health is worth the few extra dollars and the time it takes to collect the sample (even if my funny girl decides to hold out on me!).