All grazing horses are exposed to intestinal parasites, which have the potential to cause gastrointestinal disease. In Sweden, there is a concern about an increase in parasite-related equine gastrointestinal disease, in particular Strongylus vulgaris, since the implementation of prescription-only anthelmintics approximately 10 years ago.
In a prospective case–control study, parasitological status, using fecal analyses for strongyle egg counts, the presence of Anoplocephala perfoliata eggs and S. vulgaris Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as well as serology for S. vulgaris, were compared between horses presenting with or without gastrointestinal disease at a University hospital during a one-year period. Information regarding anthelmintic routines and pasture management was gathered with an owner-filled questionnaire.
Although the prevalence of S. vulgaris PCR was 5.5%, 62% of horses were positive in the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test and horses with peritonitis showed higher antibody levels for S. vulgaris, as compared to other diagnoses or controls. Overall, 36% of the horse owners used only fecal egg counts (FEC), 32% used FEC combined with specific diagnostics for S. vulgaris or A. perfoliata, and 29% dewormed routinely without prior parasite diagnostics.
Effective management methods to reduce the parasitic burden on pastures were rare and considering exposure to S. vulgaris appears high; the study indicates a need for education in specific fecal diagnostics and pasture management.
Link to the publication
Hedberg-Alm Y, Penell J, Riihimäki M, Osterman-Lind E, Nielsen MK, Tydén E. Parasite Occurrence and Parasite Management in Swedish Horses Presenting with Gastrointestinal Disease-A Case-Control Study. Animals (2020). 10(4):638.