The question we're exploring today is are you currently controlling or treating parasites?
You might wonder is there a difference? And why should you care to know it?
The reality is there is a clear distinction between parasite treatment and parasite control! And if your intention is to implement the most effective natural care for your horse then you will want to understand the difference, so that you can know which program to implement at certain times for your horse.
Overall horse owners have been taught only how to treat parasites which has led to concerns such as parasites becoming resistant to treatment plans and horses becoming intolerant and ill to the overuse of chemical dewormers.
Let's first look at the parasite itself. We have been taught to almost shun and dread their existence... In fact, parasites are most commonly viewed not simply as a nuisance to tolerate, but as an enemy to fear and annihilate.
Is this view necessary?
Does nature offer suggestions and solutions for parasite control?
What if you could shift your perspective of parasites and see them as providing a service and being a messenger of concern?
Ultimately, parasites are Nature’s “garbage men”… they are scavengers, drawn and attracted to hosts that have a desirable terrain and environment for them to live and thrive in or on.
That means that if your horse has an abundance of parasites, it’s an alarm or signal that the homeostasis of their body or the external environment needs support and attention. Essentially they have internal “garbage” or are a walking environment that is welcoming and comfortable for the parasite to live.
It can also be a reflection of the external environment and conditions that your horse is living in as well. If there is morid waste, manure, and ideal circumstances in your horse’s external living space that’s a breeding ground for parasite imbalance, the risk of your horse experiencing higher parasite loads will be increased.
The truth is, that hosts and parasites are meant to coexist. It isn’t beneficial for the parasite to kill off the host on which its lifecycle depends. It’s left unresearched or unexplored the benefits that parasites might have to your horse… There have been examples of wild horses and zebras that have been found to have high parasite loads, yet are seemingly healthy animals.
A majority of any studies conducted are done in controlled environments, which removes the animal’s innate behavior and habits from the equation. This includes the immune system’s capability to respond… A controlled environment alters the results as the animal cannot behave or respond as it naturally would on its own.
It’s important to recognize that we impede and hinder our horse’s ability to naturally respond as well… They don’t have access to various medicinal plants that they could search out that have parasite harming and controlling properties. So it becomes our responsibility to maintain proper environment management, clean nutrition, and an appropriate lifestyle to accommodate our horse’s natural design.
As we are aware, the most common parasite treatment for the average horse owner consists of implementing a routine schedule of chemical deworming pastes for their horse.
Although most horse owners are aware of the risk of adverse side effects and have seen or heard of a rising number of reports with severe cases of illness and some even resulting in death, they stick religiously to their routines and see it as the only solution.
Combining these risks to health and the rise of information showing that parasites are becoming resistant to these deworming pastes at an alarming rate, should leave many of us awake in the knowledge that toxic chemical warfare is not a sustainable solution.
Control versus Treatment
According to ‘Principles of Veterinary Parasitology’ by Dennis Jacobs and Mark Fox:
“Treatment is a short-term measure aimed at producing an immediate impact on the parasite population. The intended benefit could be alleviation of suffering, enhancement of productivity or prevention of further parasite replication. Additional supportive therapy is often given to help repair damage and restore health.”
They also later clarify that:
“Although interrelated and often combined treatment and control are distinct and separate concepts.”
I want to note that this reference was written by traditional, allopathic veterinarians on the overall principles of parasitology… Here are additional excerpts from this reference:
“Experience has shown that treatments rarely yield longer-term benefits if given in a haphazard or an arbitrary way. On the other hand, over-reliance on routine treatments can give diminishing returns over time as parasite strains become resistant to the chemicals used.”
The veterinarians that wrote this book had a clear understanding of the difference between control and treatment.
“Control has a longer-term perspective and is aimed at preventing future infection and minimizing disease risk. It implies the development and implementation plan…Non-chemical approaches can augment reduce or even replace drug usage.”
Yet, most horse owners don’t have a consistent plan for control, and what most of them hear from their vet, is how there is very little you can do to control the concerns and how consistent, regular treatments are the best and most responsible option.
When a treatment plan is needed or chosen by the horse owner, there is a complete lack of acknowledgment in the microbiome balancing and recovery support the horse needs to regain health internally. Therefore the ideal thriving environment is more suited to breed and host more parasites.
The reason most horse owners don’t embrace natural approaches is from fear and chastising from vets and other experts that make remarks such as Dr. Ramey, DVM, who on his website has a lovely blog that has this to share:
If someone has chemophobia, all chemicals are bad. In their thesaurus, the word chemical is a synonym for words like “hazardous,” “toxic,” or “artificial.” As such, since a dewormer is a chemical, it’s also bad: bad for people, horses, the environment, and bad for just about anything else that comes to mind (including parasites, too, I suppose). While a chemophobe may love his or her horse enough to try to control parasites, he or she also wants to keep from chemical exposure, too (never mind if the chemicals are safe and do their job).
Yet, directly after this statement, the website has this note for the reader:
NOTE: Dewormers are almost incredibly safe and non-toxic: to horses. For parasites, well, that’s another thing entirely.
I appreciate the honesty in the “almost” being accurately added to the above statement. The blog then goes on to educate that naturally, you will be unable to kill and completely rid your horse of parasites.
This again goes back to the annihilation concept, and the failure to see that nature has a purpose and intention for the parasite. The goal of natural parasite control is to implement a plan to promote an environment that decreases the threat of parasite imbalance, both within the horse itself and the area in which the horse lives.
It’s NOT a guarantee or continuous treatment of a problem that may or may not exist. If at some point your horse needs a chemical parasite treatment, you do it by understanding the risks, and also being prepared to support the digestive system and the body’s cleansing and detoxing systems with the support they need to both clear the negative effects of the chemical dewormer and the deceased parasites as well.
In conclusion, with this breakdown of the difference between control and treatment which are you currently implementing?
As mentioned a majority of horse owners are implementing parasite treatment protocols that are putting their horse's health at risk and diminishing the likelihood of results and efficacy every time they are used.