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What test to use and why?

Choosing to test your horse for a parasite is the first step towards taking a strategic targeted approach towards your horses worming programme. But it can be confusing which test to choose and when to use them. Each horse and yard should be treated individually with factors such as location, pasture management and number of horses in a yard impacting the parasitic levels and therefore targeted approach to testing.


Types of tests:

There are three key tests that you should be aware of when targeting equine parasites; faecal egg counting, Equisal swab and encysted small redworm blood test. It is also important to note that if your horse is cross grazing with cattle and or sheep, a liver fluke test should be performed routinely between February and May. 


1)    Faecal Egg Counts

This test will help to identify small redworms and roundworms. It is not a reliable test for tapeworm and encysted small redworm. The test requires a fresh sample of manure taken from various sections of the poo pile, (in the shape of a “W”). It will undergo a process called the McMaster technique to float the eggs, which will be read under the microscope.


2)    Equisal Swabs

This test has been scientifically proven to have high accuracy in the diagnosis of equine tapeworm through a saliva swab. Each test measures specific tapeworm antibody levels through tests called ELISA. When taking the saliva swab your horse can not have food, water or exercise 30 minutes before the test. Once completed the swab is placed into a preservative tube and posted in the pre-paid envelope to Austin Davis Biologists Ltd for testing.


3)    Encysted Small Redworm

This test uses the ELISA tests to identify specific antibody levels to help identify encysted small redworms through a blood test. The encysted stage of the small redworm life cycle can not be accurately identified by a FEC and therefore treatment in winter was standard practice up until this test was released in 2019. This should be conducted based on a risk assessment of your horses and yard with your vet or SQP.


When to test:

Spring - Faecal worm egg count and Equisal test

Summer - Faecal worm egg count

Autumn - Faecal worm egg count and Equisal test

Winter - Encysted small redworm Blood test (based on a risk assessment)


What if I have to worm?

If worming is required due to a positive test result, you should discuss with your vet or SQP to find the most suitable wormer. It is recommended to complete a faecal worm egg counting reduction test 14 days post treatment to check of efficiency of your wormer, this helps to identify possible resistance and if your wormer was effective. 



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