Vet medicine company accused of ‘putting short-term profits above equine welfare’

  • An animal-medicines company accused of “putting short-term profits above equine welfare” by promoting cheap wormers has promised to review its future communications.

    VetUK sent out an email with the subject line “Horse wormers from £4.33”, with a selection of different brands with prices highlighted and links to “shop now”. There was no advice on appropriate worming programmes and the need to carry out faecal worm egg counts, nor the dangers of growing resistance to wormers included in the message.

    David Rendle, chair of the British Equine Veterinary Association’s health and medicines committee, told H&H: “It is exceedingly disappointing to see de-wormers being advertised in this way by companies who are apparently putting their short-term profits above equine welfare and the long-term effectiveness of these products.

    “We now have resistance to every class of de-wormer and it is grossly irresponsible to be promoting these products based on their low cost.”

    Mr Rendle said the products should only be used when there has been “careful consideration of the risk of clinical disease and appropriate diagnostic testing”.

    “Cost should not be a factor in deciding which product to use and when to use it,” he said. “Antibacterial drugs would never be advertised in this way so why is it acceptable for de-wormers? Resistant worms pose a far more immediate threat to equine welfare than resistant bacteria.

    “Is the equine industry ever going to wake up to the threat that resistant parasites pose to equine welfare and the future viability of the industry?”

    H&H has long reported on the issue of wormer resistance, and that owners must take urgent evasive action. It has been recommended since 1985 that horses should not be wormed routinely, and it is thought that if all horse owners turn to targeted worming – using the drugs only when needed, which can be determined through diagnostic testing including faecal worm egg counts and other tests – this could decrease the drugs’ use by 80%.

    A Vet UK spokesman told H&H: “Here at VetUK, we understand the importance of horse owners responsibly using wormers, at the correct dose rate and during the correct season.

    “However, we regret not reiterating advice in the communication email encouraging owners to carry out worm egg counts to determine whether wormers are needed, or highlighting the dangers of resistance caused by worming when it isn’t needed.

    “As a result, we will be reviewing our communications to ensure this advice is given.”

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