Selective therapy in equine parasite control-Application and limitations

M. K. Nielsen, K. Pfister, G. Von Samson-Himmelstjerna

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations

Abstract

Since the 1960s equine parasite control has relied heavily on frequent anthelmintic treatments often applied with frequent intervals year-round. However, increasing levels of anthelmintic resistance in cyathostomins and Parascaris equorum are now forcing the equine industry to change to a more surveillance-based treatment approach to facilitate a reduction in treatment intensity. The principle of selective therapy has been implemented with success in small ruminant parasite control, and has also found use in horse populations. Typically, egg counts are performed from all individuals in the population, and those exceeding a predetermined cutoff threshold are treated. Several studies document the applicability of this method in populations of adult horses, where the overall cyathostomin egg shedding can be controlled by only treating about half the horses. However, selective therapy has not been evaluated in foals and young horses, and it remains unknown whether the principle is adequate to also provide control over other important parasites such as tapeworms, ascarids, and large strongyles. One recent study associated selective therapy with increased occurrence of Strongylus vulgaris. Studies are needed to evaluate potential health risks associated with selective therapy, and to assess to which extent development of anthelmintic resistance can be delayed with this approach. The choice of strongyle egg count cutoff value for anthelmintic treatment is currently based more on tradition than science, and a recent publication illustrated that apparently healthy horses with egg counts below 100 eggs per gram (EPG) can harbor cyathostomin burdens in the range of 100,000 luminal worms. It remains unknown whether leaving such horses untreated constitutes a potential threat to equine health. The concept of selective therapy has merit for equine strongyle control, but several questions remain as it has not been fully scientifically evaluated. There is a great need for new and improved methods for diagnosis and surveillance to supplement or replace the fecal egg counts, and equine health parameters need to be included in studies evaluating any parasite control program.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-103
Number of pages9
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Volume202
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Egg count
  • Helminths
  • Horses
  • Parasite control
  • Selective therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • General Veterinary

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