Monitoring Foal Ascarid Burdens With Ultrasonography

Researchers confirmed that transabdominal ultrasonography can reliably identify worm burdens of more than 10 ascarids.
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foal ascarid burdens
Researchers confirmed that transabdominal ultrasonography can reliably identify worm burdens of more than 10 ascarids. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Martin Nielsen
From crooked limbs to bacterial infections, equine neonates are at risk for developing a number of age-specific health problems. They require close veterinary oversight as their bodies and immune systems mature.

But researchers recently determined that veterinarians can essentially kill two birds with one stone when they monitor foals for a couple of common health problems: Rhodococcus equi pneumonia and lung abscesses and heavy ascarid worm burdens. All it takes is an ultrasound probe moved a little further back. Martin Nielsen, DVM, PhD, Dipl. EVPC, ACVM, described how to do just this at the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas.

Foals in Central Kentucky routinely undergo ultrasound examinations to detect lung lesions caused by R. equi, said Nielsen, who is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington. Recently, he said, a fellow practitioner questioned whether the same technique could be used to monitor foals for ascarid presence.

Nielsen explained that ascarids, or roundworms, are ubiquitous in foals and put them at risk for potentially fatal small intestinal impaction. “We don’t have an accurate threshold number, but clinical cases (of impactions) often have worm burdens in the hundreds,” he said

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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