Effective Treatment of Worms in Horses – Pastes or Natural Remedies?

When it comes to treating worms in horses, there’s 2 very different schools of thought. Some people believe that commercially made, chemical containing worm pastes are the only way to go, while others won’t even entertain the thought of putting such a horrible concoction of chemicals down their horses throats and insist that the various natural remedies are the way to go.

Whatever option you end up choosing, it’s vital that it’s effective and keeps your horse as close to worm free as possible – a horse that is 100% worm free is almost impossible to achieve. Horses carrying a large burden of worms are at much greater risk of colic, will struggle to put on weight, often have a dull coat & will lack energy for exercise.

Worms in Horses

Garlic is one of the main ingredients in many natural worming remedies.

Worm pastes these days carry a wide range of different chemicals to help combat the development of worms in horses. These worm pastes or drenches operate by killing off the parasites from larval stage up to adult. When using chemical wormers, the worming schedule for horses should be about every 8 weeks – depending on the brand you’re using – some products like Equest gel last for up to 12 weeks.

Some of the downsides to the use of chemical wormers to treat worms in horses include:

  • Putting extra strain on the liver.
  • Can kill of good gut bacteria.
  • Can contribute to super parasites that are developing resistance to convention worming chemicals.
  • May cause impaction colic due to rapid kill-off of worms – this shouldn’t happen though if the horse is on an effective worm management program as they won’t have such a build up of worms in their gut.
  • Can have an adverse effect on earthworms & beetles.

The most commonly used natural horse worming remedies include the addition of extra copper to the horse’s diet to boost their immune systems to help keep the worms at bay. Extra copper can be added to the horse’s diet in crushed rosehips, seaweed and garlic. Other popular natural de-wormers include diatomaceous earth, pumpkin seeds (crushed) and herbs.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what horse worm program you undertake, as long as it’s effective. A good way to check how effective your worming program is, is by having a fecal egg count done on a sample of your horse’s manure. Most vet’s will do this, or with a bit of basic equipment (microscope, slides, floatation solution & vial) you can do one yourself.

Monitoring your horse’s fecal egg count will give you some idea of how effective your worming program is. An egg count of less than 50 EPG is considered insignificant, 75-200 low EPG, 225-600 medium EPG, & 625+ EPG is a high count of worms in horses.

So ultimately, which method is more effective?

That can be a hard question to answer, but personally, from my experience I prefer to go with the chemical worm pastes. I have several friends who use and swear by natural remedies but from what I’ve seen of the results they’ve achieved, I’d feel more comfortable sticking with the chemicals.

On the last fecal egg count done on 2 of the horses using a combination of garlic, diatomaceous earth, pumpkin seeds (& a few other things), they came up in the medium range while my chemically wormed horses had an insignificant count.

The other person I know, has never had a fecal egg count done (that I know of) and relies on increased copper in the diet, has lost several foals to colic from worms. Another 3 month old foal that they almost lost, had up to half a dozen 4 to 5 inch long round worm in just one ‘pellet’ of manure!

Whatever you choose, make sure that you’re using something that’s effective for treating worms in horses!