Horses aren’t usually considered to be ‘high-risk’ when it comes to tapeworms, but recent evidence suggests otherwise. The most common assumption is that you become infected by them through the consumption of uncooked meat. Unlike your household pets, who will most likely be eating meat-based pet foods, your horses will be eating purely vegetation. However, tapeworms are able to infect pasture mites (the ‘intermediate host’), who are then consumed by the horse when it eats grass. The horse has now been parasitically infected.
The main threat that tapeworms can cause is horse colic, which will no doubt send a shiver down the spine of any horse lovers out there. Horse colic is generally described as any gastrointestinal condition that causes any form of abdominal pain, and is the number one cause of premature death in domesticated horses. The results of the failure to intervene can result in expensive surgery, or even death. Because of such serious implications, it’s important to spot colic before it can become too serious; suffering horses may often nip at or turn to face their stomach at frequent intervals.
The tapeworm itself lodges itself in the cecum (considered to be the ‘beginning’ of the large intestine) of the horse, can cause a blockage in the digestive system. This can rupture the intestine and cause fatal damage to the animal.
A horse that is given a poor de-worming programme and has a poor diet will be the most likely target for tapeworm infections, so horse worming your animal effectively and giving them a high-quality feed is considered to be the best prevention technique. Most general horse wormers have proved relatively ineffective against the tapeworm, although positive effects have been shown when praziquantel is administered.
There are horse wormers on the market that contain praziquantel as well as the standard treatment for any other equine parasites An annual dose of praziquantel can help keep the tapeworms at bay, but a vet should be consulted if the problem becomes more severe.