Less deworming leads to more equine parasitic skin disease, vet says

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Severe self-inflicted trauma on the side of a horse caused by sarcoptic mange.
Severe self-inflicted trauma on the side of a horse caused by sarcoptic mange.

A veterinary dermatologist in Britain has noted an increase in the prevalence of parasitic skin disease, in line with a reduction in the use of wormers.

Dr Sue Paterson, a Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology, has seen a persistent increase in enquiries about equine parasitic skin diseases over the past two years. She said overuse of some drugs, such as equine wormers, has “inadvertently treated problems such as parasitic skin disease but these may now be unmasked with a reduction in anthelmintic usage”.

While a return to the indiscriminate use of anthelmintics is inconceivable, Paterson is advising that skin problems must be treated using suitable veterinary advice rather than “Dr Google.”

“This escalation seems to coincide with the increase in use of FWECs (faecal worm egg counts) rather than outmoded routine worming,” she said.

“Diseases such as sarcoptic mange, which is carried by foxes, and chorioptic mange appear to be more prevalent, yet market research shows that in many cases a visit to the vet is a last resort and people go to Dr Google or Facebook first, which is worrying.”

Paterson said it was important for parasitic skin diseases to be diagnosed early so that they can be treated promptly before the condition escalates and spreads. This will both improve animal welfare and save money and telemedicine can bridge the gap in resources, making specialist help readily available for horse owners and their vets.

During lockdown while vets triaged and dealt with urgent cases, online consultations became a recognised source of support and advice for many pet owners until they were able to see their vet.

“It’s highly likely that this new pattern of operation is here to stay but it’s vital that people know about the virtual services available to ensure they receive qualified advice,” said Paterson, who founded the telemedicine company Virtual Vet Derms in 2018.

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