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Equine Health Resource

Ascarid Worm Impaction

Ascarids (Parascaris equorum) are large worms (adults are 4″-15″ long, pale worms that look like bean sprouts), which are the most important parasite of young horses. The adult stage live in the small intestine of growing horses. Small numbers of the parasites do not cause much problem in young horses, but large worm burdens cause classic signs of intestinal parasitism- poor growth, pot belly, poor hair coat, etc. This parasite is uncommon in adult horses.

“Ascarid impaction” usually occurs after worming a young horse that has a large parasite load. Huge numbers of these large parasites die en masse, drift downstream and obstruct the intestine, causing signs of colic. The dead parasites also cause an intense inflammatory response in the small intestine,damaging the lining. Severely obstructed horses can even require colic surgery to remove the obstruction.

There is increasing evidence of ascarids being resistant to ivermectin, and some farms are seeing increasing problems.

It is important not to start worming young horses before 60-70 days of age. Benzimidazole wormers are more effective against ascarids than ivermectin is, and kills the parasites more slowly, thereby making impaction of dead worms less likely.

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • What deworming program should I use for foals that will reduce the likelihood of this problem?
  • What management techniques reduce parasite infestation of horses?
  • PREVENTION

    Use good management to reduce worm populations in the environment and decrease ingestion of parasite eggs by foals. Deworm foals according to your vet's recommendations. Do not worm foals before 60-70 days of age. Use benzimidazole wormers as directed because they have better effectiveness against this parasite. Expect these parasites to be resistant to ivermectin.

    Another benefit of the benzimidazole wormers (fenbendazole, oxibendazole) for young horses is a slower kill of worms than the other drug classes. This may reduce the likelihood of impaction after de-worming.

    Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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