Here's one; "the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout...."
When the goal is to minimize health risk and maximize our animal's well being, small, wriggly things matter! Intestinal parasites may not be obvious, but they can be planting little ticking time bombs inside their hosts whether those hosts are horses, sheep, goats, camellids (llamas & alpacas), dogs or cats. Lets don our hazmat gear and have a look. Most parasites are species specific, but parasitic organisms like ascarids (roundworms), strongyles (large & small thread like worms), tapeworms, lungworms, etc. affect all mammals. Their life cycles vary, but in general each parasite only spends a particular stage of its existence within their host animal. They may cause damage within the gastrointestinal tract, in the blood vessels, in the lungs or anywhere else they move as they mature in that warm & cozy worm incubator. (see photos below) Eventually they exit their host (usually in the feces) and the cycle continues.
Minimizing the impact of parasites requires multiple approaches. Two of the big ones are making the host's internal environment as unfriendly as possible using dewormers and managing the external environment to break the cycle of re-infection. Several important factors influence how parasites affect an animal, like age, occupation and overall health, local climate, and feeding & housing practices. For management purposes, lets be loud & clear.... "it's all about that poop, 'bout that poop, 'bout that poop, (big) trouble! (sing to "All About that Bass").
It's not hard to see that animals exposed to lots of other animals in concentrated situations are at high risk for parasite infestation. What's a little less obvious is the actual parasite load for each individual animal under it's own specific conditions. The other problematic unknown comes from the parasites themselves which can develop resistance to dewormers. To address this we recommend developing an
Individualized Deworming Protocol for your animals. This program should be directed
both at the individual animal and at the entire herd when animals are housed together. It consists of performing base line fecal egg counts to identify the number and type of parasites followed by treatment with appropriately specific deworming products and additional "fecals" as needed throughout the year to monitor efficacy of the program. Individual management practices dictate how frequently fecal exams should be performed with a minimum of once yearly for animals with limited reinfection exposure. Here's a couple of typical scenarios; Your horse is stabled at night but out in a pasture with other horses during the day.... your horse is at a relatively high risk for re-infection,
especially if the herd is not also on an Individual Deworming Protocol. It also matters how frequent and effective the poop patrol is, remember reinfection is all about that poop. Fecal egg counts will be a very helpful management tool for you and should be performed more than once a year. Scenario 2; your horse has it's own stall is rarely on pasture and is never closely exposed to other horses.... your horse is relatively low risk for parasite re-infestation, as long as he is managing the few parasites he already has. A fecal egg count will give you a good baseline. Performed once a year, it will insure that your deworming products are working as expected.
So, your horse has never colicked, your goat's poop looks normal you say? Well, besides the obvious gross-ness of your animals growing worms inside them (see photos), good parasite management has consistently proven to be "money in the bank". By keeping your animals innards healthy, maximizing feed efficiency, helping them feel at their best and limiting colic risk, the modest investment of developing an IDP is insurance you can't afford to pass up.
Key to image below left to right; strongyle & ascarid eggs, roundworms in intestine, tapeworms in stomach, strongyle damage in large blood vessel