Is a stressed horse likely to have a higher worm egg count? That’s what Chloe Dix, 2016 OvertheCounter SQP of the Year, is trying to find out.
Chloe, who runs Target Worm Counts, a mobile faecal egg-counting business, is running the research project as part of her Master’s degree in biological sciences.
“With any disease, it is important to identify risk factors for increased infection. In the field of horse parasite control, there are still a lot of gaps in our knowledge,” says Chloe, who is based in Gloucestershire.
“High levels of stress in many species, including humans, is known to cause dysfunction to the immune system and can render an individual more susceptible to disease. Horses are exposed to many sources of stress because of human intervention.
“Some of these include exercise intensity and frequency; transportation; change of environment and herd; vet, farrier and dentist visits; and social isolation.
“Previous medical conditions can also cause a stress response in the horse’s body as it tries to maintain preferable conditions.”
Chloe’s research project, which runs until September, will investigate whether horses that are exposed to increased stress shed more parasite eggs in their dung.
“This will help further expand our knowledge of susceptibility to parasitic infection and aims to assist future studies that develop decision support systems for selecting individuals for treatment with a wormer,” she says.
Customers who present their horse’s sample for routine worm egg counting will be invited to complete a questionnaire on topics such as previous worm control, grazing management, feeding, exercise, transportation and medical history. The results will be tallied with the most recent routine worm egg count result.
Chloe says that all information will be kept anonymous and participants can withdraw from the study at any point. If any significant findings are made, she hopes to publish them in a peer-reviewed academic journal.
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Image: Chloe Dix