Fecal Egg Count for Horses; There's an App for That

Resistance to chemical dewormers by equine internal parasites threatens horse health, said Martin Nielsen, DVM, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center. One important way to slow the building resistance of internal parasites to chemical dewormers is by performing routine fecal egg counts (FECs) on horses. Like so many other tasks made easy by technology, a smartphone app can help horse owners with FECs.

Performing a simple FEC involves creating a soup out of your horse’s manure and looking for eggs laid by female parasites. The FEC identifies the exact type of parasites in the horse’s body.

Once the parasite burden is determined based on FEC, your veterinarian can help you decide what deworming product to use, how much to administer and when to administer it.

“FECs are an important tool in a targeted deworming program, which is a more desirable deworming strategy than strict rotational programs or the ‘when-I-remember’ approach that many owners still rely on,” said Nielsen.

Although collecting a single stool sample and sending it with your veterinarian for analysis doesn’t seem difficult, it is one assignment often left for another day and then forgotten. To streamline the process, Nielsen and colleagues from MEP Equine Solutions, LLC, created the Parasight System.

Nielsen explained, “The Parasight System is a smartphone-based fecal egg diagnostic and intestinal parasite management tool that allows veterinarians to perform rapid, quantitative, on-site FECs and effectively treat and manage parasite burdens. The app provides FECs, as in the number of eggs per gram of feces, and treatment recommendations in less than five minutes.”

The system, not yet commercially available, compares favorably with the traditional FEC method, the McMaster method, but is faster and easier, based on developmental testing. It is capable of identifying strongyle and ascarid eggs in horses of any age or breed. It can also be used to help assess the level of chemical dewormer resistance on a specific farm when used during the “worm challenge.”

“We are currently fine-tuning the prototype Parasight System to make it even easier to use,” Nielsen shared.

For example, Nielsen and his business partners are working on upgrading the magnifying lens, branding the dye used to make the parasite eggs fluoresce, improving the filter material, and making the app compatible for Android phones with a high-megapixel camera in addition to the iPhone 5, which is the only device it currently functions on.

Nielsen emphasized, “The Parasight System was originally designed as a stall-side test, but it can also be used in the veterinarian’s office in case larger farms wish to perform FECs on multiple horses. It really is ideal for both scenarios.”

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