Worm Egg Counts

Faecal egg counts are probably the most useful and equally the most dangerous development in modern parasite control methods.

They are one of only three ways to actually identify a parasitic infection, but the results can be easily mis interpreted, and then the health of your horse is put at risk.

All faecal egg counts ordered from Intelligent Worming are carried out at our own ScientifEQ laboratory that has been developed in partnership with veterinary parasitologists at the University of Liverpool. The University team is lead by Dr Chris Proudman, one of the UK's foremost specialists who developed the world renowed ELISA tapeworm antibody test.

A faecal egg count should be part of the worming program for EVERY HORSE, PONY and FOAL.

  • If you are due to worm then you should really order a faecal egg count instead to ensure that you are not wasting your money on a worming program that is not working.
  • If you think you do not need to worm so often then order a faecal egg count to ensure you do not put your horses health at risk.
  • If you have purchased a new horse then order a faecal egg count to ensure you know the parasite level that has been included in the price.
  • Worms have developed a resistance to all chemical groups, so order a faecal egg count to ensure that your chemicals are still effective.

There are only three ways to definitely diagnose parasitic infections:

[1] Faecal egg count (FEC) for egg laying worms

[2] ELISA antibody blood test for tapeworm

[3] Gut inspection under surgery

Options 2 and 3 can only be carried out by veterinary surgeons. Option 1 we will review how safe this is and highlight the pitfalls of DIY FECs.

What is a faecal egg count (FEC)?

A sample of your horse or ponies dung is viewed under a microscope to see whether any worm eggs are present in the dung.

What do the results mean?

The results show the number of eggs seen in the sample. However an accurate count is not possible and so many commercial providers offer results to the closest 50 eggs per gram of dung. The veterinary university laboratories can analyse the results to under 10 eggs per gram of dung, providing much more accurate results.

Do they identify all worms?

They only show up the eggs from the worms that lay eggs as part of their lifecycle. This does not include pin worm, bots and tapeworm.

Why do I need to do this test?

The worms that cause disease in our equines have developed a resistance to all of the chemical wormers available. An FEC is the only way to assess whether the chemicals are working.

Only 20% of horses have worms, however over 80% are still being wormed. Using FECs instead of wormers means that your horse or pony will only have the chemicals that they actually need.

How safe is it to stop worming?

Providing a full risk assessment is taken on the pasture contamination levels and the FEC are carried out at the correct time, it is safe. However this is not something that you should even attempt to do on your own. The interpretation of FEC results should only be carried out by an expert in parasitology. Standard interpretations and recommendations are dangerous and should not be followed without checking with your vet or an independent expert such as Intelligent Worming.

Why can’t I do it myself?

If your equine has a clear FEC result then the standard recommendation from most commercial labs is ‘no worming needed’. However this is not always correct. It is possible to have a ‘false negative’; this is when the dung sample is taken whilst there are still active chemicals in the horses system. It is also always dangerous to stop worming foals and youngsters as they can develop severe clinical symptons much quicker than adults.

What does a clear result mean?

It means that there are no active adult worm eggs in the sample of dung that you have sent for analysis. It does not mean that your horse does not have worms!!!! The worm life cycle includes many larvicidal stages that are not detected from faecal egg counting and there are also worms who would not show up any way.

What is the point of faecal egg counting?

FECs are a fantastic development in the professional parasitological tool kit. They can be used to assess whether the chemical intervals of a worming program are suppressing egg laying activity. They can be used to detect resistance to chemical wormers and they will also detect severe parasite infections. Veterinary recommendations are to stop blanket chemical worming as there is no need. It is only by replacing the chemicals with faecal egg counting that our horses will remain safe. The incorporation of this practice into your horse health care program should commence in 2010.

Do all companies and vets offer the same service?

The quality of the FEC results will vary greatly, there is no quality control over FECs and no qualifications required to perform FECs. Microscope costs can vary from £25.00 to £5K. The other piece of equipment that will improve the accuracy of the results is a centrifuge which spins the dung in the sample away from the eggs, only the eggs are left to view. Without a centrifuge all grass, dung matter etc is still under the slide when viewed. A good quality commercial FEC will cost more due to the superiority of equipment and training of staff.

Intelligent Worming is working with the University of Liverpool to bring the latest research to horse owners at an affordable price. The University carry out the FECs and the experts at IW interpret the results, based on a full risk assessment carried out with yourself. If you would like to take advantage of this service please call 01267 223322 or email info@intelligentworming.co.uk.

Call one of our equine advisors today for further information or a free quote on 01267 22 33 22 or email your details.