Egg counts Explained
Faecal Egg Count (FEC) is a method of determining how many internal parasite Eggs are present in a particular dung sample. It may also be possible to determine the different types of worms or other parasites present. The information on both the number and type of parasites can be used to determine whether or not an anti-parasitic treatment is required.
If an animal has internal parasites the eggs produced by the adult parasites are often passed out in the dung. If eggs are found in a fresh dung sample it shows that worms are present in the animal.
The number of eggs found can provide a useful indication of the level of parasite infection, so a high egg count would suggest a high level of adult parasites in the animal.
FEC is an extremely valuable tool to monitor parasite levels for individuals and groups of animals.
In addition to helping with decisions about whether or not to treat animals, the FEC can be used to check if resistance to particular anthelmintic treatments is developing. A test before and after treatment can help to identify whether a particular anti-parasite product was effective.
The FEC technique was originally developed for use in sheep but now widely used for cattle, horses, pigs, poultry, Alpacas, Dogs & Cats and other species. The number and type of eggs found that should trigger treatment are different for each species.
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What FecLab do with your sample
A measured amount of the dung sample is added to a measured amount of a solution (a flotation fluid) that allows the parasite eggs to float to the surface. The mix needs to be carefully measured so the results can be translated into a final ‘eggs per gram’ (or epg). The dung and the solution are mixed well and then strained through a sieve or cheesecloth to get rid of as much debris as possible The filtered solution is then stirred again and a small sample drawn off with a syringe or pipette for examination right away (eggs will start to float to the top as soon as the mix is left undisturbed).
The sample is place into a counting slide which normally has two chambers, each with a grid etched onto the top surface. One chamber is filled, the solution is stirred again and then the second chamber is filled.
The sample is then allowed to stand for a short while allowing the eggs to float to the surface where it is easier to see them under a microscope.
Eggs that can be seen under the etched grid are then counted and identified, as necessary.
The Quantities of dung and flotation fluid that are mixed together determine the multiplication factor that is applied to the egg count result to give a final ‘eggs per gram’.
Why egg count?
By using worm egg counts as part of your Animals health and worm management programme we can greatly reduce the number of times we use chemicals to treat for worms which is not only far better for your Animals it can also be far better for your purse. Using worm egg counts can also reduce the resistance that develops through the continual use of chemicals which can lead to conventional wormers being less effective and the worm burden increase in the Animals.
Egg counts are also better for the environment. Using wormers containing chemicals can reduce the natural breakdown of dung as the chemicals can kill the dung beetle , Knowing if, when and what action to take is essential, this is why using a worm egg count programme is such a valuable management tool for your Animals health and wellbeing.
Eblex, Defra, Scops and the soil association to name a few, are all talking about the benefits of faecal egg counts. As an industry we can ill afford an increase in Anthelmintic resistance within the industry. Faecal egg counts are becoming the preferred route prior to worming any animal.
Equine faecal egg count
All horses are susceptible to endoparasites (or internal parasites) and will be affected at some time in their lives. Level of infection depends upon the type of parasite, the degree of exposure to the parasite and the immunity of the horse. Immunity tends to increase with age such that older horses generally have lower levels of infection.
As horses become very old their immunity may decrease and they may start to carry higher parasite burdens, however they are unlikely to suffer from parasite-related disease. Horses with Cushing’s have been shown to carry greater numbers of parasites.
Small numbers of parasites are not harmful to horses and need not be treated; indeed excessive treatment can generate resistance and be detrimental to populations of horses.