Worms & Worming!

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We have recently had three claims submitted for serious diarrhoea associated with small red worm (strongyle) infections, an infection which is preventable through the correct worming management. Worming, as with vaccinating against equine influenza and tetanus, is likely to be a condition of your insurance policy, as part of your fulfilment to ensure your horse’s health is maintained, so it is important to check this stipulation carefully. At KBIS we state that the insured horse “should be regularly wormed or assessed for worm infestation by egg count, and treated in the event of a positive result in accordance with veterinary guidelines.” Two owners, therefore, unfortunately, found that their horses were not covered as they had failed to comply with this condition. The third horse was a new purchase which had had a pre-purchase examination where the vet had recommended purchase, so the worm infestation was not the insured’s fault and so the claim was valid.

The symptoms result from encysted larvae in the gut all “hatching” at the same time, resulting in massive irritation and inflammation of the gut lining. It is usually something in the spring grass that triggers this- it is an evolutionary advantage for the worms to emerge in the early spring- they then mature in the gut to adult worms who will lay lots of eggs to get eaten up in the lush spring grass! The larvae can “sleep” in arrested development in the gut wall cysts for several months over the winter until conditions are right for emerging. It is, therefore, possible that a moderate level of infestation over the summer months could lead to a massive problem the following year.

Establishing a correct and effective worming routine and management system to prevent such infections should be straight forward. But with changing guidelines it can get confusing and for those keeping their horse in a livery yard environment without a standardised policy across the whole yard it can pose a number of problems.

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