With the arrival of summer, we have many new foals in the Peace Region. You have waited eleven months for this new life and there are a few things that need to be done to ensure you get them started on the right foot. Most people are aware of the importance of colostrum in those first hours of life, but not everyone knows that foals require special attention when it comes to deworming.
Young foals are more susceptible to parasites than adult horses because they have naïve immune systems. While many parasites can cause issues for your foal, roundworms, also known as ascarids, are most often the culprit for parasite-related disease in young horses. Roundworm infection can cause ill thrift, poor growth, depression, respiratory disease, diarrhea, constipation, and potentially fatal colic secondary to intestinal impaction. Foals become infected by ingesting eggs that are on the ground or in the barn while sampling grass or exploring the environment.
Good parasite management is three-fold. The first two steps actually begin prior to the birth of your foal.
1. Environmental management
2. Broodmare/adult horses
3. Foal deworming protocol
Managing the environment is just as important, if not more, as deworming your horses. Foals pick up eggs shed into the pasture, paddocks, or barns. Removing manure and used bedding from the environment can have a major impact on decreasing parasite burdens and ideally should be done at least twice weekly.
Many people like to harrow manure back into pastures for the nutrients it can provide to the soil. If you are going to harrow it should be done when it is hot and dry so the worms are exposed and dry out. This works best if you can remove the horses, harrow and then leave them out for awhile. Rotating pastures with other species (cattle, for example) through the grazing season can also help by breaking the parasite cycle.
Good barn hygiene is also important, especially for roundworms as their sticky eggs can survive for a long time. All surfaces should be cleaned thoroughly between animals.
Healthy mares make for healthy foals and that holds true for parasite management too. Mares should be on a regular deworming schedule prior to breeding and throughout pregnancy, as well as other adult horses that share the same spaces. To determine the best protocol for your horses please consult with your veterinarian.
One of the major goals of a well-rounded foal deworming protocol is to minimize the chances for a large population of roundworms developing and becoming established. Below are some general guidelines. The first deworming should be around eight weeks of age using fenbendazole (eg Panacur®) or pyrantel (eg Strongid®). Use a weight tape to estimate your foal’s weight to ensure accurate dosing of all dewormers. Young foals should be dewormed every two to three months in the first year of life. Moxidectin products (eg Quest®) should not be used in foals under six months of age.
Work with your veterinarian to develop a deworming program that utilizes multiple types of dewormers given at the appropriate times and proper doses.
Dr. Kimberly Jones is a veterinarian with the North Peace Vet Clinic.