Pardon the focus on parasites. It’s a pretty gross topic, isn’t it? Mara is struggling with an overload of small strongyles and I am very hesitant to use any kind of chemical on her, as she is old, has lost a lot of weight, and her immune system is most likely very low, as she had a very advanced case of Cushings. The Vets I’ve talked to are very...whats the term I want, blasé??..about giving her poisons, but I know the harm they do and I will only do it as a last ditch effort. My normal dewormers do not seem to be helping at this point so I really need to think "outside the box" for the "outside the box" situation. I've used the Worm Gone with her for the first two years, then after having her feet cleared with Xrays (as I wasnt sure if she was a post founder/ potential founder with her funky feet) I started using Worm Gone Max...which showed no improvement in her case, to now looking for other options. It’s both frustrating and interesting to come across a horse that is giving me a challenge in this area as for the past eight years I have only natural deworming methods and only used chemical dewormers on one horse who was riddled with threadworms (which Mara has as well) and I only did so after trying every natural method under the sun. With Mara and the threadworms, I have been using topical treatments (herbal sprays and creams) with some anti histamines to keep the itching down. The garlic, apple cider vinegar and Cootie Kicker seem to be bringing them to the surface, so they are itching horribly, but hopefully we are cycling through them and have only had a few surfacing since I brought her home last month. We’ll see how that progresses.
I did a fecal count on Mara for the first time in August (thank you to Horsemenslab.com) and it came back with an egg count for strongyles of 1200ppm. That’s pretty high! After three weeks of Worm Gone Max, I was confident that the next fecal count would be reduced, but it came back at 2000ppm! I have since then learned a lot more about Cushing’s horses and parasites (greatly reduced immune system) and taken a good look at chemical resistance in strongyles. Something that I do know about Mara is that she had a career as a “show pony”. That typically means regular vaccines, and regular deworming with chemicals…that also comes with a really high resistance to said chemicals, which is why I am very hesitant to reach for more! Her poor little system is already very strained and I don’t wish to add to the burden. Its kind of a “lose lose” situation. That high of a worm burden has issues of its own, chemically deworming a horse in her condition would have major consequences as well. Add on top of that chemical resistance…and even more problems.
My current working theory…
Since I have had no issues for the last eight years deworming horses with non chemical dewormers (minus the threadworms on a senior horse) I have to assume something very out of the box is going on. As strongyles have become very resistant to various chemical dewormers…and that resistance seems to lead to encrusted strongyles, my current theory is that Mara is shedding at high levels because of these encrusted strongyles. While she has the weight loss associated with high egg count, she does not, nor has ever had the diarrhea that goes along with it. Well, I can’t say never, as she came to me with very loose watery stool. Grace, in comparison, is only showing an egg count of 500..not completely surprising since I already know she is immune compromised as she had that huge sarcoid we had to deal with and spent a year and a half stuck in a stall not getting any vitamin D and a very nutrient lacking diet. I’ll be tracking Grace’s progress with the parasite load as well. Interestingly, my oldest gals, Amber and Sandelee, are testing at zero (or below 200 at least). It was a very buggy summer, hot and high humidity, so increased parasites are kind of the “norm” but should still be manageable. The incoming cold weather should help the situation somewhat but the pull on Mara’s system should be reversible, and would be on a horse without Cushings. Age and disease may have its toll however. We shall see what happens.
(Featured image is an outbreak of thread worms on Mara's face. After treatment they dried up and healed nicely!)