Tapeworm in Horses, Why worming alone is not enough. How to do testing and targeted treatment

We often wonder when to worm our horses for tapeworm. But, it’s no longer as simple as reaching for the praziquantel every six months!
Read on to learn how one horse Athena had been treated regularly as per guidelines but had suffered an unusual colic episode. We advised testing for tapeworm see what we found!
But first, let us understand the effects tapeworm has on a horse.
Is tapeworm really bad for your horse?
And how do horses even get tapeworm in the first place?

What do tapeworms do to horses?

 Tapeworm live in the horse’s intestinal tract and many horses tolerate them very well.
This is why it can be tricky to know if your horse has tapeworm, as there aren’t always obvious signs.
Tapeworm was once considered harmless to horses. But, research has actually shown that the tapeworm can cause severe damage to the horse’s intestinal tract. And it could be a silent killer of horses!
Its presence has been linked to increased risk of intestinal issues, impactions and spasmodic colic.
Tapeworms infect horses of all ages, and horses do not appear to establish any immunity to them.
Yearlings and weanlings who contract tapeworm infection are at more risk of developing ileocecal colic.

How do Horses Get Tapeworm?

Tapeworm is more common in areas like the UK where we have lush grass.

  1. Tapeworm uses an intermediate host as part of its life cycle. This intermediate host is the ‘Pasture Mite’ and as the name suggests, it is readily found on grass and as such also exists in hay.

  2. Tapeworm eggs on the ground, are ingested by pasture mite before they infest the horse.
  3. The eggs develop over a few months in the mite.
  4. The mites are microscopic and the horse cannot detect them. So as the horse grazes it swallows the infected mite.
  5. In the gut, the tapeworm continues to develop and feed off the horse.
  6. It will produce proglottids, which are worm segments with complete reproductive systems.
  7. The proglottids will pass out in the faeces and lay eggs.
  8. The eggs are ingested by the mites and the cycle starts again.
diagram of the lifecycle of tapeworm in horses. Tapeworm testing information and advice from EFECS

What are the Signs of Tapeworm in horses?

In most cases, there are no signs your horse has tapeworm as many tolerate them very well
there may be no signs you horse has tapeworm you cannot tell. signs and symptoms of tapeworm in horses
If your horse displays:
  • More episodes of spasmodic colic
  • Performance is reduced 
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Increased flatulence
  • Pawing 
  • Trying to lie down lots
  • Malaise 
  • Lethargy
  • Looking and nipping at sides/stomach 
  • Bloating
  • Refusal to eat 
  • Dull Coat 
  • Lack of shedding coat
These are signs something is not right with your horse and you should talk to your vet and investigate possible causes

Case Study: The Story of Athena (In the words of her owner)

“This was Athena the day after completing our first ever Intermediate.
Just after this I did a tape worm test which Clare at EFECS recommended when doing her re-test for red worm 🐛
I’d never done a saliva test before and sent it off thinking nothing more of it.
I was horrified to find her results came back as HIGH!!
A few weeks back Athena gave me a scare with gastric colic which she had never had before and I couldn’t understand what had caused it.
Clare at EFECS informed me that tapeworm is known as the silent killer!
Unlike other worms the horse does not show signs of tapeworm (as you can see from the photo) the only sign they may show is… Gastric Colic! 😳
I’ve given her the treatment recommended by EFECS and she feels like a different horse.
I didn’t think she could feel anymore bouncy and alive but I was wrong!
She is absolutely full of life and feels ready to start a season of Eventing!
Thank you to Clare at EFECS for making me do this test, you have possibly quite literally saved my girls life 💖
To all fellow equestrians give Clare at EFECS a shout and get your ponies checked!!
The added bonus is that she then sends you reminders and recommendations throughout the rest of the year 😊👍
Now Athena had been regularly treated for tapeworm every 6 months with praziquantel.
Her owner was doing the right thing.
But without the testing she couldn’t tell if the wormer had been effective.
There are many reasons why treatment may not have worked.
But with testing, you can treat effectively. Because, you know!
And if there is any resistance to the wormer we can try alternatives.

So how do you test for tapeworm 

It is really easy to test for tapeworm.
You simply buy a tapeworm saliva test kit here. And follow the instructions.
Our sponsored rider Rosie Bates demonstrates how simple the process is in this video:

What’s next?

Would you like some help with a targeted plan to help your horse?
Get your horse tested for tapeworm
Once we have the results Clare will be in touch with specific expert guidance on what to do next!



All the information on this website – www.EFECS.co.uk – is published in good faith and for general information purposes only. Equine Faecal Egg Count Solutions does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on this website (Equine Faecal Egg Count Solutions), is strictly at your own risk. Equine Faecal Egg Count Solutions will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website. 

Please seek advice for your horse from your vet or SQP before treating your horse.

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