A few weeks ago I was perusing the Chronicle of the Horse forums and came across a thread about fecal egg counts. For those who aren’t horsey, this is a task that veterinarians have been encouraging horse owners to do for the past few years to better plan when and what to deworm their horses with, rather than just following the long-standing rotational deworming method. Many worms have become resistant to dewormer and by doing a fecal egg count you have a better idea what kind and how bad the infestation of worms in your horse.
The vet I used when I first had horses in Texas recommended just doing the rotational deworming and forego fecal egg counts, so I did. Fast forward to now, I have a new vet and he thought it was a good idea. It costs about $20/horse to do a fecal egg count and at first you should do it about 4 times a year to get a strong baseline of counts. I currently have 5 horses at my house and I was mostly just annoyed at the idea of spending $400 per year to do the fecal counts.
Back to the Chronicle forum thread. A couple commentors on the thread said they did their own fecal egg counts. Mind. Blown. I private messaged one of them with some questions and did a search on Amazon for a microscope and I was off and running!
This is the microscope I bought. Can you believe that you can buy a microscope for less than $100?! I was amazed! I also had to get a graduated cylinder, pipettes, a McMaster slide and a few other small things.
I’m going to do an overview of the method I used, but I am no expert on fecal egg counts!
Based on the advice from the Chronicle I utilized the McMaster Method for equine fecal egg count. I made my own flotation solution with water and Epsom salts.
First step: gather the poop. I got fresh droppings from each horse, put it in a plastic baggy with the horse’s name and the date.
Second step: measure the flotation solution.
Third step: measure the poop.
Fourth step: add the poop to the flotation solution.
Fifth step: mix up the poop and flotation solution.
Sixth step: pipette the liquid solution without getting any solid pieces in the pipette.
Seventh step: pipette the solution onto the McMaster slide.
Eighth step: after the slide has sat with the solution for 20-30 minutes you can read it under the microscope.
Ninth step: the method of counting the worm eggs utilizes the 2 chambers on the slide and counting eggs in each column. The columns make it easier to keep track of where you have counted. You add up your total eggs and multiply that number times 25 for a total count.
Under 99 is a low count and doesn’t necessitate deworming. 100-499 is medium and you should probably deworm. 500 and over is high and you should definitely deworm. 3 of my 5 horses had a count under 99 and 2 had counts of 750 or higher. I found this very interesting since all the horses have been here for a few months so have the same environmental impacts. I’ll deworm the two with high counts then do another fecal count for all 5 horses in a few weeks. You can get a low count on a horse that actually has worms depending on the lifestage of the worms when you did the fecal count. So I could have more horses with high counts later. I will also be able to tell if the dewormer I use works on the 2 horses that get dewormed. If counts are still high then I will need to use a different dewormer.
THIS IS SO FASCINATING! I feel like a mini-scientist! And yay for feeling empowered to care for and evaluate my horses’ health!