‘We treat horses for tapeworm too frequently’ warns top vet

  • OWNERS are reminded that a wormer treating only tapeworms is still available from vets  and that broader-spectrum products are not necessary to treat this parasite.

    The only previous product available on the open market that contained only praziquantel was discontinued in 2018 in a “setback” in the fight against wormer resistance. The drug was then only to be available in combination with ivermectin or moxidectin, which are used to treat small and large redworm.

    But manufacturer BOVA stepped in to produce a praziquantel-only product. This is a registered product so can only be sold by vets, and British Equine Veterinary Association president David Rendle told H&H it is “very useful to avoid using combined products when they are not necessary”.

    H&H has reported at length on the dangers posed by growing wormer resistance in the UK and globally, and only using drugs when they are needed, as determined by an ongoing testing-led worming programme, is important in controlling this.

    Mr Rendle explained that tapeworms cannot be identified in faecal worm egg counts; exposure to them is tested by saliva or blood tests, and levels in these tests are not expected to drop immediately after treatment.

    “It is my personal opinion that we treat for tapeworms far too frequently and we worry too much about horses that have antibodies to tapeworms,” he told H&H. “In mature horses with some level of immunity, the risk of disease associated with tapeworm is low and annual treatment is adequate for the majority; some do not need to be treated at all.

    “At the request of vets, BOVA has stepped in to produce a straight praziquantel product that is only active against tapeworms, to overcome precisely the concerns that have been outlined.”

    Mr Rendle said the queries of some owners over-treating tapeworm “highlight the complexities of developing de-worming programmes and the value in developing an annual plan in partnership with your vet who will have more tools in their kit than are available over the counter”.

    “They will also have knowledge of your property and management – and on livery yards may be able to coordinate plans for the whole yard, which will reduce everybody’s use of de-wormers and help prevent the development of further resistance on the property,” he said. “‘Further’, because there will already be red worm resistance there.”

    Claire Shand, director of parasite and testing company Westgate Labs, told H&H it is important owners know there is a praziquantel-only product.

    “It was a real setback for wormer resistance when Equitape was withdrawn from sale in 2018, so fantastic that BOVA stepped up to fill this gap with their vet special,” she said. “We recommend it frequently to customers and advise them on how to get hold of it. But it doesn’t seem so widely known about in some circles, so as many come back to say their vet is unaware of the product or is reluctant to prescribe it.

    “As with all testing, we have to use it within the context of the science, the situation and the risk. [Tapeworm saliva test] EquiSal is excellent and the information it has brought has helped us to revolutionise our approach to tapeworm control since it became available in 2015.”

    Westgate recommends six-monthly testing with the EquiSal tapeworm test, based on peer-reviewed research, and may recommend 12-monthly if results and circumstances suggest this is safe.

    “The research shows that fewer than 30% of horses tested need treatment, which allows us to drastically reduce unnecessary exposure to chemicals,” she said. “Conversely, it also enables us to treat those with a high burden effectively, for many of whom one isolated tapeworm treatment isn’t sufficient because of the reinfection rate and the fact the tapewormers target adult rather than larval stages of the parasite.”

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