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Tapeworm Symptoms in Horses

i Horse at pasture image by Aleksandrs Jermakovi from Fotolia.com

Your horse can be infested with tapeworms yet appear to be healthy. Watch for changes in your horse’s appearance and signs of illness or unusual behaviors. Tapeworm symptoms aren’t consistent and can be subtle, so take note if your horse just isn’t acting normal. Deworm your horses once or twice a year, depending on recommendations from your veterinarian, with a product that contains praziquantel.

Spasmodic Colic

For lack of a better description, spasmodic colic is the condition your horse has when he suffers from flatulence or gas. It is a common type of colic among horses, and fortunately they usually recover from gas colic incidences. While there are several causes for gas colic, tapeworm infestation is a typical one because of the inflammation it can cause in the intestinal wall. Suspect gas colic if your horse is pawing, wants to lie down and get up frequently, nips at his side or refuses to eat. He may also appear bloated. Remove all hay and feed from his living area, call the vet and hand-walk him until the vet arrives.

Other Colics

Your horse is susceptible to two other types of colic that, while they may have other causes, are associated with tapeworms: impaction colic and ileocecal intussusceptions. As the name implies, impaction colic is when fecal matter gets clogged in the small intestine rather than passing through the portion of the large intestine called the cecum. Ileocecal intussusceptions is severe; due to inflammation tapeworms can cause, the small intestine gets pushed into the cecum, much like a sock being turned inside-out. Symptoms for these colics are largely the same as with gas colic, although the horse’s pain and discomfort are typically more severe and the outcomes less predictable.

Dull Coat

Take note if your horse’s usual shiny, glossy coat appears dull and rough. A dull coat is a sign of an unhealthy horse and is commonly associated with parasites -- tapeworms and others. Related to this is a lack of shedding; if it’s spring and your horse looks like he still has a shaggy winter coat, suspect a parasite infestation.

Weight Loss and Performance

Since tapeworms can affect the way a horse is able to digest foods, he may experience weight loss with an infestation. In very young horses, this inability to properly absorb nutrients can cause delayed growth. In adult horses you may see a decrease in performance due to both weight loss and nutrition deficiency.