Henderson Equine Clinic recommends "Targeted Deworming" which employs fecal egg counts to determine how your individual animal or farm needs to be managed. For years, veterinarians have recommended "Rotational Deworming" which simply rotates dewormers every 6 weeks or so throughout the year. The problem with this system is that most animals do not need to be dewormed this frequently. Like the overuse of antibiotics, overuse of dewormers can and have caused resistance in the population we are using them to control.
Fecal egg counts require a relatively fresh fecal sample, which can be collected in a plastic bag and stored in the refridgerator or in a cooler until it can be delivered to the clinic or picked up during a visit. At the clinic, we mix the fecal sample with a solution that allows the parasite eggs to float to the top. We then visualize the eggs under a microscope and count them with a grid to quantitate eggs per gram of fecal material. This gives a good idea of you animal's parasite load.
If a low number of parasite eggs are seen, it may not be necessary to deworm your animal more than 2 or 3 times per year. However, if your animal is shedding high numbers of parasite eggs, much more frequent dewormings will be necessary. Additionally, there are management steps you can take regarding pasturing and feeding that can decrease the re-infestation rate. We consider each animal an individual, and each farm a unique situation, to create a plan that will help decrease parasites in your animals while creating the least resisitance in the parasite population.
Fecal egg counts should also be used for deciding whether or not to deworm small ruminants. This is even more critical, as many of the dewormers currently being used have limited or NO effect in some populations. Based on previous deworming history, Fecal Egg Counts, and clinical signs we can make educated recommendations on deworming product choices, as well as if the animal needs to be dewormed at all.
We also offer FAMACHA training for our small ruminant clients. FAMACHA is a system developed in South Africa and used to assess the degree of anemia in our small ruminants. One of the major intestinal parasites in small ruminants is Haemonchus contortus, which causes disease mainly by "sucking blood". This causes the animal's mucous membranes (gums, conjunctiva of eye, inside of vulva) to pale. By comparing the color of an animals conjunctiva to a card with specific shades of red/pink, we are able to determine whether the animal needs to be dewormed. There are many websites that allow download of images of the FAMACHA card, however it is very important that there not be variation in the colors used, and official FAMACHA cards are not available on the internet.