Sustainable equine parasite control: Perspectives and research needs

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69 Scopus citations


Clinically important equine parasites are ubiquitous in managed horse populations. The traditional approach to parasite control is frequent administration of anthelmintics to all horses on a farm. However, increasing levels of anthelmintic resistance is forcing horse owners and veterinarians to shift this control paradigm. Treatment regimens involving routine deworming of all horses throughout the year are now being replaced by more sustainable approaches, which take in to account the importance of maintaining adequate parasite refugia. The selective therapy principle has been recommended for more than 15 years, but there is limited experience with this approach. The relative magnitude of the faecal egg count for an individual horse is a consistent trait, and this provides a reliable basis for selective therapy. But no studies have evaluated the consequences of selective therapy in the long-term, and such studies are strongly needed to validate this approach. Importantly, it remains unclear how selective therapy may affect the prevalence and intensity of other parasites of significant pathogenic potential (e.g. Strongylus vulgaris), which have become uncommon due to years of intensive chemotherapy. Consequently, a selective approach requires vigilant surveillance of the parasite fauna and intensity. This places a demands for reliable diagnostic tools. Also noteworthy is the fact that the majority of equine nematode parasites are more pathogenic during their larval stages, when they cannot be detected by traditional egg counting techniques. Consequently, parasite-specific diagnostic tools capable of assessing prepatent parasite burdens, and able to differentiate between strongyle species of different pathogenic potentials, would be of great value to the equine clinician. Tools for detecting infections with the tapeworm Anoplocephala perfoliata are laborious, difficult to interpret, and at present there is no established method to evaluate treatment efficacy. Thus, better diagnostic tools are needed for tapeworms as well. Biological control, especially the predacious fungi have demonstrated good potential as an adjunct for strongyle control and such a product could easily have a market in equine establishments. In summary, there is general agreement that the traditional treat-all at frequent interval approach should be abandoned, and that optimal parasite control can be maintained with far fewer anthelmintic treatments. But better diagnostic techniques and more evidence documenting the long-term consequences of selective therapy programs are needed to develop and validate systems for sustainable equine parasite control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-44
Number of pages13
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 19 2012


  • Diagnosis
  • Horses
  • Parasite control
  • Selective therapy
  • Sustainable

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • General Veterinary


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