What is Living in Your Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   28th Apr 2016   •   1,044 views   •   0 comments
What is Living in Your Horse

Thereís a whole ecosystem of sorts in your horse you may not even realize exists. In almost every system, parasites make their home. Within the muscle tissue lives Toxoplasma gondii parasites. While not terribly harmful to their host, they can harm anyone who eats the tissue. If you plan to eat your horse, make sure itís well cooked to kill the parasite cysts.

Of course, there are all sorts of bacteria in your horseís digestive system and not all of them are bad. Some gut bugs help your horse digest itís food and your horse needs them for good health. And, you want to feed in a way that prevents the bad bacteria from overrunning the good ones. If the bad bacteria gets out of hand, they can cause gastric distress, colic symptoms and laminitis. Bacteria can manage itself without our help as long as we feed our horses good hay and grass and be careful not to overfeed sugary, starchy or other unnatural foodstuff.

While many bugs inside your horse have a symbiotic relationship - that is everyone gets along, there are others that can be really harmful. These include parasites like tapeworms, roundworms, and strongyles. Itís almost impossible to rid your horse completely of what are commonly known as Ďwormsí. All horses will have a population within them. How large the population is depends on whether or we not take steps to get rid of them, and what stage of lifecycle they are at. Populations typically wax and wane.

Related: Top 10 Insects That Will Bite Your Horse
Related: Which Vaccinations Does Your Horse Really Need
Related: 10 Diseases You Can Catch From Your Horse

Vampires exist, and they arenít all as good looking as Edward Cullen. In fact, they are about as gruesome as any blood sucker could be. Commonly called bloodworms, these parasites chomp into the walls of your horseís intestines and suck blood. They can damage the walls of the intestine, cause internal bleeding and clotting that can block small blood vessels. If a severe arterial blockage occurs, death can follow. Unfortunately they are oblivious to garlic and impossible to drive a wooden stake through.

White worms arenít the white knights of the parasite world. Quite the opposite, in fact. Also known as roundworms or Ascarids, they are the most common horse parasite. If a foal is heavily infested, it can affect their growth as well as sap their energy levels. Some varieties of ascarids can be up to 35cm (14 inches) long. They are egg laying machines, with their output lying in wait for the next horse in the pasture. Theyíre eggs are very hardy too, surviving all but the most extreme conditions of heat and cold for up to ten years.

Another similar parasite are threadworms. Horses get these by eating them, or they can enter through the skin. Yuck. They can also be passed to a foal through the mareís milk. They can cause damage to both the lungs and the digestive system and cause unthriftiness and skin irritation.

Does your horse constantly sport a frizzy, scrubbed out tail? Pinworms might be behind all that tail scratching. Pinworms live in the large intestine and can irritate the under-tail area. Thatís what all of the tail scratching is about.

Most worms start as eggs hiding in your horseís pasture. As they eat, they also pick up little hitchhikers. The eggs travel either to your horseís digestive system or into the respiratory system. Another of these is lungworms. Lungworms live in a horseís lungs. They can cause a lot of damage, including coughing, respiratory infections and if severe enough death.

Bot flies can drive your horse nuts. These often appear in late summer and as they attach a single egg to a hair, they irritate your horse so it stamps and swishes. The eggs on the outside of your horse are obvious and can be scraped off. Inside, the larvae can cause lots of damage to the intestinal tract.

Horses, like most other mammals can get tapeworms, although theyíre not as common as some of the others. Theyíre called tapeworms because they appear to be white flat segmented grains of rice. Most of the segments have eggs and these are deposited in the pasture when the horse drops manure. And thereís another creature that helps it make its way back into the horse. A small mite eats the eggs. Then the horse eats the mites as they graze. Tapes are harder to get rid of than other parasites. But, itís important to do so, because they can sap a horse of nutrients, causing poor condition.

How do you get rid of these nasties? A regular de-worming program helps to minimize parasite numbers. Tube paste wormers often contain something like ivermectin, a drug that doesnít really kill the worms, but destroys their immune system and allows the horseís white blood cells to finish it off. Keeping your pastures cleaned up can help and scraping bot flies eggs from your horseís hair can reduce their numbers. But, no matter how conscientious we are about keeping our horse's healthy, there will still be some unwanted residents on the inside. They key is to make sure they donít take over.
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