Equine - Faecal egg counts - Why do them? What do they mean?
Lecturer: Simon Daniels, PhD, PgCert, BSc (Hons), FHEA, R.Anim.Sci
The use of faecal egg counts (FECs) is paramount in sustainable parasite control. Faecal egg counts appear to be a “new thing” but they have actually been around since the 1950’s but it is only recently that we have adopted them as a routine diagnostic tool. A faecal egg count is only useful if it is used in the appropriate fashion. One count is like a photograph, it estimates the adult parasite burden at that point in time. A series of scheduled counts provides a much better idea of the parasite burden. There are some limitations in that you can detect mixed strongyle infections, ascarids and occasionally you may see a tapeworm egg but no other parasites. FECs are not a reliable diagnostic tool for tapeworm, the tapeworm ELISA available through your vet and conducted at the University of Liverpool is much more reliable due to the lifecycle of the tapeworm. Equally a FEC only detects the adult female parasites and with Cyathostomins you have to consider the encysted stages that will not be shown up on a FEC. You also need to consider the time of year, the time period since the last anthelmintic treatment and the risk category the animal is within for a parasitic infection, all of these will impact on how you use FECs. By working with FECs and someone that is experienced in interperating the results and understands parasite lifecycles it is perfectly possible to implement a sustainable worming programme using strategic FECs.