08: Recognizing Signs of a Heavy Parasite Load

Action: Be aware of the physical signs associated with common parasites.

Rationale: Despite the best monitoring and management, a horse may still be subject to a heavy parasite load at some point in it’s life. Being able to recognize the signs will enable prompt intervention and treatment.

Signs Caused by Common Parasites of Horses




Anemia, dry coat, diarrhea, general loss of condition


Loss of condition, bowel problems, or colic when present in large numbers; migrating roundworm larvae can also injure the lungs in young horses


Horse rubs its tail; itching and irritation around anus; discharge and worms visible around anus


Loss of condition and colic from large numbers in the gut; occasional diarrhea or constipation


Mild diarrhea, colic, failure to grow or put on weight as expected

Routine Health Care of Horses

08: Parasite Control

Action Point: Develop and implement an evidence-based parasite control program.

Rationale: Given increased parasite resistance to worming medications (anthelmintics), one should strive to manage parasite loads in as natural and preemptive a manner as possible. After all, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’!

The best place to start is with prudent manure and pasture management, followed by a balance of treatment and surveillance, including routine fecal egg counts. Deworming plans should be specific to each horse in coordination with fecal egg count reduction tests to determine the effectiveness of the anthelmintic administered on the highest shedders in a population. Dosage directions according to horse weight must be followed for best chances at effectiveness and to minimize increasing parasite resistance (i.e. too low of a dose of a particular anthelmintic may increase parasite resistance to that class of drugs).

Effective management of manure is key in preventing heavy parasite loads in horses. Manure should be removed from stalls and small paddocks every day, and from larger paddocks and fields twice per week.  If possible, pasture rotation is recommended to further limit parasite loads.

AAEP Parasite Control Guidelines

Creating a Parasite Control Program

Diagnosteq - Solutions to Worm Control

Integrated Parasite Control: How to Strike a Balance

Pasture Management for Parasite Control

14 Up-to-Date Equine Parasite Control Facts

08: Dental Care

Action Point: Establish a regular dental care routine with the veterinarian and be aware of common signs of dental problems.

Rationale: Untreated dental issues such as abscesses, gum problems, sharp enamel points, and hooks on the teeth from uneven wear increase a horse’s risk of colic, the development of mouth or gastric ulcers, choke, nutritional deficiencies, and behavioural problems related to discomfort and pain. Common signs of dental problems in horses include:

  • difficulty chewing or dropping food while eating (quidding)
  • excess salivation
  • weight loss
  • evasion of the bit or bridle
  • uncharacteristic head tilting or tossing
  • bad breath or traces of blood in the saliva
  • swelling of the face
Equine Dentistry: It's Not Just Floating Anymore  

The Importance of Maintaining the Health of Your Horse's Mouth