Recent survey results show that more than a third of British owners never conduct fecal egg counts (FECs) on their horses.

The British Riding Clubs horse health survey conducted earlier this year revealed that 36% of the 559 horse owners asked never conduct FECs. Many veterinarians recommend that FECs (which indicate how many parasite eggs a horse is shedding) be carried out regularly to identify horses that need deworming and those that don’t.

The FEC approach can save owners the cost of deworming horses that don't need it, protect the health of those that do need treatment, and help slow the effects of althelminitic resistance seen in many parasites. Fecal egg counts can also help horse owners determine if their dewormer is working, if performed before and after administering a dewormer.

Conducting regular FECs, together with good pasture management and regular pasture cleaning, can help to keep grazing as clean and worm-free as possible, which in turn can help horses stay healthy. It’s also important to determine each horse's weight before worming to make sure the correct dose is administered, as under-dosing contributes to anthelmintic resistance and can decrease the dewormer's efficacy.

A few things to keep in mind about FECs:

  • A standard FEC will not reliably identify tapeworms, encysted small strongyles, or bots. For these parasites, dewormers should be administered on a strategic basis.

  • Foals and yearlings also benefit from regular FECs, however the results need to be interpreted more cautiously and deworming is needed more frequently in young horses than in adults. (Editor'