Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Parasite Control vs. Deworming

By Judy Sinner, Gold Director  

This article is for support only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, prevent or mitigate any disease.

This article has morphed fairly dramatically in the last 4 years, since it first was published. As more info has become available on the parasite resistance to all wormer classes, and even mainstream vets are now advocating alternatives of building the immune system and worming only upon high fecal counts, these natural methods are more important to the health of our equine friends than ever before.

I personally have 10 horses, ranging in age from 4 to 26. The four year old has never had a chemical dewormer, and he is spectacular, he is Generation 4 bred and raised on DYNAMITE®. His 13 year old dam has had perhaps 3 doses of paste dewormer in her whole life. The others are all late teens and up, and endured my well-meaning frequent doses of wormers in their early years, and thankfully have done far better the last 15 years on just an occasional spring dose of Safeguard or maybe Strongid P. They get Herbal Tonic™ for 28 days spring and fall, and daily Excel™ at 1 tsp a day the rest of the time. I have also noted that Miracle Clay™ seems to repel has a strong paramagnetic charge, while parasites are diamagnetic in nature. S.O.D. will even sometimes be the natural parasite control of choice. Dapples and toplines are spectacular, weight is awesome on TNT™ and no grain for most, a cup or two of our Pelleted Grain Ration™ for the upper 20’s geldings, grass hay free choice. Note that I consider them spectacularly healthy, and that it might take up to 2 years of chemical free feed, optimum minerals, detox work and holistic methods to get the conventionally-fed, oft-dewormed and vaccinated horses “up to speed” where their bodies can effectively deal with parasite challenges.

The parasite issue for our horses, dogs and other animals is one of the most charged subjects in animal management. Positions range from “I must administer a dewormer either daily, monthly or semi-monthly or my animals are at great risk” to the opposite paradigm, “I am not going to give my animals a toxic chemical, I will just use herbs or other natural substances”. I would like to address the subject of BALANCE and offer information that will assist animal caretakers to make informed decisions. Remember that many animals are alive and healthy today because chemical wormers came on the scene, while many horses and dogs do better on herbal products, and that “wholistic” treatment can mean all-encompassing, using both allopathic methods and complementary methods when appropriate.

Consider that a chemical dewormer is by nature and design a toxic substance, designed to kill or disable parasites, and hopefully not cause too much damage to the host animal in the process. The trick is to find the dose and frequency that works in each situation, and that may or may not be a “one size fits all” prescription. Worming more often than necessary can contribute to liver toxicity which stresses the animal unnecessarily, actually weakening the body and making it more of a target for parasite infestation. Remember, after all, parasites, insects and disease are “Nature’s Garbage Collectors”, designed by the Grand Scheme of Things to stress and eliminate the weak and unhealthy animal or plant, recycle it back to the earth and start over, thus sparing resources for the healthy and viable. Consider the possibility that animals have parasite overloads because they are unhealthy, not that the worms are the first cause of the health problem!

Donna Starita Mehan, DVM says, “Chemical wormers are accumulated and processed in the liver. When the liver becomes overwhelmed, it moves out of first stage storage and detox and into second stage, the byproducts of which are metabolites which are toxic to the cells. Now the animal is coping with the parasite, the toxic effects of the wormer, the health issues which precipitated the original health crisis which allowed the parasite to overgrow in the first place, plus the second stage liver metabolites.The overall result is a progressively downward spiral into increased toxicity, increased numbers of parasites, and increasingly more serious health problems. (EPM?).”

Anecdotally, we have seen many horses over the years crash with “EPM-like” ataxia and CNS problems following deworming. Some of the popular deworming drugs are neurotransmitter inhibitors, and seem to affect some horses’ coordination with repeated use. When an animal has a toxic liver for any reason, the production of cholinesterase, an enzyme necessary for transmission of nerve signals to the muscles, is impaired. In dogs, this same liver toxicity problem manifested in an experience that Sr. Director Ray Brinlee had with clients who run racing Greyhounds. The animals were winning consistently on Showdown®, and then each month when they got their heartworm medication (required by the track) they would pathetically lose their races that week, before regaining performance. So Ray had them give the dogs our human S.O.D. supplement to support the liver and the immune system just before and for 3 days after the worming, and the performance dip stopped - they just won right on thru the month!

In my own horses, I have noted one family in particular, descended from a wonderful old Arab/Saddlebred mare, who would “just go to Hell in a handcart” when they got a dose of a popular deworming product. Weight loss, hair coats dulling and growing long even in the summer, colic episodes, just general decline. So many years ago (15!) I quit using that particular dewormer on her descendants and all my horses, and they do just fine. Pay attention to your animals, they will tell you.

This quote from The Rest of the Story About Agriculture Today expresses an eloquent viewpoint: “Just as good health and vigor protects plants from their pests and diseases, so also are animals (and humans) protected from parasites and diseases. Are infectious diseases caused by germs? Well, yes, but... we are surrounded by disease germs daily, but as long as we are in good health - get plenty of sleep and eat a good diet - we don’t get sick. Usually, it is only when an animal is under stress– in poor health–that disease pathogens can get a foothold. Healthy animals have various defenses against parasites and diseases, including antibodies and white blood cells. It is well known among animal breeders and geneticists that the offspring of certain crossings are resistant to insects and diseases. (J. Blakely & D.H. Blade, The Science of Animal Husbandry, 1976, p. 129.)

“Organic farmers often report that their livestock are not bothered by flies. Veterinarian Dr. John Whittaker, writing in Acres U. S. A., (Dec. 1975, March & April 1975), states that B Vitamins, Vitamin C, and other nutritional factors play an important role in protecting animals from parasites and diseases; for example, an imbalance of dietary calcium and phosphorus or a magnesium deficiency increases parasitic worm infestations, while a high carbohydrate diet increases the infection of Balantidium, a protozoan intestinal parasite.
He notes that too much soluble nitrogen (non-protein nitrogen) or urea in feed causes high blood urea or ammonia levels, leading to reduced resistance to bacterial infections. Resistance to parasites and diseases can also be lowered by vaccinations and antibiotics (these can kill rumen microbes, leading to toxic mold infections), worming medicines, moldy feeds (through mold-produced toxins, including aflatoxin), and stresses (weather, noise, moving, and diet changes).

“The basic approach of the experts to weeds, insects and diseases is to identify the pest involved and zap it with the recommended poison. But actually, pest attack is a symptom of plant and animal deficiencies and malnutrition, not the cause of the illness,” Donna Starita, DVM, echoes a similar sentiment. She states that she sees more cases of colic and verminous arteritis in her practice in horses that are wormed daily or semi-monthly than in horses that are not wormed as frequently. Research veterinarian L. Phillips Brown speaks of the coming of “functional medicine”, where treatments and dosages are based on individual needs. Wholesale worming by the calendar may not be the answer for many animals.

Parasite resistance to all the modern wormer classes is now being reported. Director Penny Jones in WA, says, “Thought you would be most interested in this article in the Veterinary Record, the most prestigious research magazine for vets. OK....are they now saying what you and Regan and DYNAMITE® have been saying for years??!! Now maybe we can’t be shot if WE suggest horses should be wormed only if infested to the degree the horse is harmed or infecting other. I believe there will be more on this. If nothing else, we can quote Dr. Ray Kaplan and friends.”

To summarize the article, on 44 horse properties with 24 or more horses, all had benzimidazole resistance, and 48 percent had pyrantel resistance. The latter is presumed to be due to the use of daily wormer. “Development of an effective immune response is important to ameliorating disease.” states the article. They agreed that fecal egg counts were the most useful guide to the need for treatment. The figure of 200 eggs per gram was given as the threshold to begin treatment with deworming drugs. This treatment should be based on the egg counts of individual horses, not on regular periodic dosing. It was suggested that horses with fewer than 50 eggs per gram be ignored as sources of potential contamination. The study concluded that regular use of moxidectin (Quest) increased the risk of resistance to this class of drugs, and that it’s use should be limited. The conclusion: “It is vital for horse health to maintain the efficacy of anthelmintics, particularly the macrocyclic lactones (ivermectin, abamectin and moxidectin). To do this will require a major change in thinking about the way anthelmintics are used - from preplanned treatments to treating only those horses that require treatment and reserving larvicidal drugs for those animals where large numbers of larvae are likely to be present in the mucosa.”

The clinker here is that resistance to the ivermectin-type wormers is also being reported. Horse Journal in November 2003 states, “The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Assn reports the failure of ivermectin to eliminate roundworm infestation in 20 out of 37 foals treated with ivermectin. In some foals, the counts kept increasing between the time of treatment and a recheck 12 to 13 days later…the ivermectin failures occurred mostly in foals that had been born on the farm and were regularly dewormed with ivermectin since birth, both suggesting the emergence of an ivermectin-resistant roundworm on this farm... intensive use of ivermectin puts considerable pressure on the parasites to evolve to a resistant form.” (And I might add, continual deworming that does not clear the parasite load most likely just stresses the horse unnecessarily, making them even more of a target for the parasites to overgrow.)

One suggestion the article makes is to deworm only high risk horses or those with high egg counts, and skip the other horses so that there are parasites present to interbreed with the resistant strains, thus lowering the possibility of totally resistant parasites. So...the concensus still appears to be to stop using dewormers at regular intervals, to rotate classes or wormers, and to deworm only on an as-needed basis. So how do we know “how much is too much” or when to deworm or how to control the parasite load at an acceptable level? Fecal samples, muscle testing, parasite point reflex testing, general observation and consideration of exposure to reinfestation all can be reliable indicators. 

The observation of many old time cattlemen and horsemen who recognized parasite infested animals by the “fading” of the coat color intensity, which is another sign of copper deficiency (in people as well!). Bays and chestnuts will be “washy” and lighter-colored than normal, and the blacks will have a definite reddish cast. Angus cattle will look redder, and Herefords will be yellowish. Usually the hair will “fishhook” as well, sort of curling up at the ends and looking fluffy rather than laying flat. Dogs will show similar coat fading, especially noticeable in breeds like Dobies and Rotts. To follow this a little further, dog handlers who insist on ignoring our caution to not feed Dyna-Coat™ all the time have complained of a reddish cast to the coat after months on the product, which is high in zinc and would of course suppress copper over a period of time. Some dog handlers have discovered that feeding the human S.O.D. product to dogs for 10 days or so before a show will darken up coat and mouth pigment, since S.O.D. is high in copper. (Since I am already digressing furiously, I might as well keep on going.) An Acres USA article stated that animals with darker coat pigment require more copper than animals with lighter hair coat color! A great incentive to make sure that your horses have free choice access to 2 to 1 and 1 to 1, both of which contain chelated copper with the other nutrients. Users have noticed the horses increasing consumption of these products at times of stress, weather changes, parasite challenges, etc. They know what they need! Darker coated horses and greys may need a quarterly 10 day regimen of our S.O.D. for Horses to boost the copper levels. 

Copper is also a major nutrient support for blood vessel strength and integrity, along with Vitamin C. So does it follow that animals deficient in these nutrients might be more at risk for parasite-induced aneurysm? Which comes first, the deficient animal or the parasite damage to the tissues? My fervent hope is that parasitologists will become more interested in studying the effect that the immune system and diet plays in parasite infestation or resistance. “Why does the animal become infested?” might be a more appropriate question than “How do we kill the worms?” 

So, what to do? There is a plethora of products on the market for which anti-parasite properties are claimed: diatomaceous earth, garlic, black walnut hulls, MSM, clays, etc. In my experience and observation, these herbal assists have their place in parasite control in a healthy animal with a healthy immune system, or as an adjunct to chemicals in an animal who is currently not healthy enough to withstand a chemical deworming. There are times when a chemical dewormer is needed, when the parasites have overgrown to a dangerous level or the herbal approach is not working. It is sheer folly to keep using herbal products when the horse is obviously in need of a good deworming. To me, that is just as unbalanced an approach as is the other extreme of blasting the whole barn with chemical dewormer just because it is June 1st, or daily worming just because “everyone else is doing it.” I feel that many allopathic veterinarians fail to even consider complementary methods because they have seen animals in real trouble when a misguided owner fails to wake up and smell the Cappucino, and acknowledge that the “natural” approach may need a chemical assist in some cases. Here are some thought to help you formulate your own game plan:
Horses who are on an optimal program of mineral support and balanced diet (sane protein, preservative free, low sugars) and in great health probably do not need to be dewormed frequently. Do fecal checks at random and frequently, consider exposure, get input from your practitioner. These are horses that can benefit from herbal support for parasite control, and chemical deworming perhaps concentrated in the spring and early summer when parasite infestation is at a peak. Dogs likewise. 

If you choose to use chemical dewormers, do not use them in conjunction with other stresses, such as vaccinations or teeth floating especially with tranquilization, within a week before or after hauling or competing, don’t ride that day, or subject to any other type of emotional or physical stress. Obviously, you would not deworm an animal running a fever or exhibiting acute problem, until the crisis is over. Likewise horses with underlying problems like laminitis, hives or heaves, or other chronic health problems are not good candidates for chemical deworming. Support after chemical deworming with a probiotic like Dyna-Pro™ for several days to help re-establish the beneficial gut bacteria, and consider using a product like Excel™ for a few days (use 1 tsp a day for 30 days if the horse appears to lose weight after worming) as a pH balancer and detoxifier. 

Sometimes boarding stable or kennel rules or insurance companies dictate frequent worming, so these are some things you can do to support the horse in more quickly throwing off the toxic effects. If you choose to use daily wormer, consider giving the horse a break from the product during the winter months when parasite activity and reinfestation chance is lower. Think carefully before deworming a particularly debilitated horse or dog. Many rescue cases go bad because of the rescuer’s frenzy to immediately deworm and vaccinate an animal that is already on its lips. A crisis may be avoided by waiting a few weeks until the animal has started to rally with proper diet and supplement support. 

If you are on a daily or semi-monthly deworming program and are seeing any of these side effects of liver toxicity, you may wish to back off on the chemicals and work on building up the animal: 
1. Recurrent colics (especially right after deworming) or digestive distress, loose stools. 
2. Weight loss, topline loss or muscle wasting. 
3. Hypothyroidism as evidenced by weight loss or gain, crumbling hooves, laminitis, dry hair coat, frizzed hair coat, reproductive problems. 
4. Hoof abcesses or white line disease. 
5. Crabby attitude or lack of desire to work or play. 
6. Muscle soreness, tying up or white, foamy sweat. Any deworming or parasite control works best on a full moon! If you choose to do 28 days of Herbal Tonic or Excel, you will automatically cover this. If you chemically deworm, do it at the full moon when the fluid pressure in the cells is at a peak, and you will get a better kill. 

According to an article in Horse Journal, August 2001, “Deworming Drugs Are Safe But Not Foolproof”, deworming risks break down into Toxicity from the drug itself, and Reactions to the worm die-off. Recommendations are to use caution when deworming horses with exceptionally high or low body fat (since fat stores toxins), on other drugs, with liver problems, on tranquilizers or other drugs that affect the CNS, on other dewormers, on drugs affecting the intestinal tract, or on eye drops that affect the pupil. 

With the modern day wormers, the most common side-effects are neurological. Reactions to the worms dying off in large numbers include decreased appetite and depression, diarrhea, colic, laminitis, shock, clotting abnormalities, and even death. These reactions are tied to how heavily the horse was parasitized. Foals, weanlings and yearlings are always considered at high risk for deworming. The article states, “Effective parasite control requires a healthy, fully-functioning local immune response in the gut, which is not well developed in younger horses”.