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Discuss Attack on the Neck Threadworms at the Horse Health forum - Horse Forums.

Summer itch. Sweet itch. Rubbing tail and mane out itch. Rubbing belly raw and leathery ...
  1. #1
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    Angry Attack on the Neck Threadworms

    Summer itch. Sweet itch. Rubbing tail and mane out itch. Rubbing belly raw and leathery itch. Allergic to mosquitos.

    Non-responsive to antihistamines, slightly better with flaxseed. Topicals don't work.

    My little roan mare couldn't leave my property because she didn't have a bag over her head... last year, she was horrible. Her tail was totally gone on the tail bone, mane had about 4 inches left. Her whole belly was just like leather with open sores. She would itch constantly on anything that looked like it could be a good scratching post.

    This began in late 2008. She began itching around July and by September had thinned her mane out. In 2009, she got much, much worse, and last year, just awful. We tried flysprays. We tried flysheets (belly band and neck guards). Herbs. Topicals. Turnout in the least buggy times of the day. Nothing helped.

    Then I read a thread over on the COTH forum about Neck Threadworms, and a series of case studies of owners who had horses with similar and identical problems, who successfully treated the condition with a double-dose deworming of Ivermectin. BINGO!

    Lukas, one of our 3 yr olds, has also had similar itching developing, plus rainrot that randomly appears during dry weather and some weird flakey patches of skin. Neck Threadworms can be transfered to other horses by biting insects-- or I should say, the juvenile "microfiliarae" can be transfered, and these little pests are what cause the itching. The itching does not always last year-round and is more common in the spring and summer when the juveniles are hatching and causing trouble. These are microscopic--- you can't see them without a microscope. They're one or two steps up from bacteria.

    The adult form of this worm--- yes, it's a parasite-- is called Onchocerca Cervicalis(sp). It lives in the nuchal ligament. Yes, in the ligament. It is nowhere near the digestive system. This bad boy can grow up to 11 inches long.

    OH. MY. GODs.

    The other form, Onchocerca Regulata (or something), lives in the tendons and ligaments of the lower legs. These ones are thought by one hoofcare lady to be a cause of "contracted tendons" in young horses, and she has successfully and surprisingly quickly returned a lot of foals to "normal" by using proactive trimming and doing a double-dose deworming protocol. Within weeks. I saw the pictures. Shocking.

    Since the little pests are so deep in the tissue, a regular dose or under-dose (due to people incorrectly guesstimating their horse's weight, or horse spitting out dewormer, etc), is basically ineffective against this parasite... which is why even those of us who regularly and properly deworm may have not seen any positive results with our "constantly itchy" horses.

    A double-dose based on the horse's weight is generally not harmful to the horse (ivermectin is tested safe at up to 10 times the recommended dosage). Unfortunately, the lifespan of the adults is 7-14 YEARS... so to completely eliminate them from your horse, you would probably have to do a repeat of this double-dosing protocol every spring to kill off the juveniles and then "wait" for the adults to die.

    So now that we're all thoroughly itchy and really grossed out...

    I decided to try the double-dose protocol as recommended by the ladies on COTH.

    I am choosing to use Panomec (1.87% Ivermectin).

    Week 1: Double-dose Ivermectin
    Week 3: Repeat.
    Week 5: Repeat if horse still shows symptoms after Week 3 dose.
    (May have to repeat every two weeks until the horse is symptom-free.

    Symptoms include:
    - hives (big nasty hives)
    - increased itching
    - bumps "popping"/draining
    - new sores on belly/neck

    Some horses showed no symptoms after dewormings. Others symptoms immediately resolved within days. Horses who were previously asymptomatic became symptomatic. These can be alleviated with antihistamines or Benadryl.

    Worsening of symptoms/appearance of symptoms usually occur 2-4 days after deworming. (Even the dewormer info tag warns about this stuff happening due to the worm population dying off and exiting the body, specifically for Neck Threadworms).

    Wisher has been better this year due to the Flaxseed and cool, bug-free weather... but she's still rubbed a lot of her mane out and tailhead already... her belly is nasty, too.

    So she and Lukas were both dewormed this morning, and now we wait.
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    Senior Member+ Long Leaf's Avatar
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    How is a positive diagnosis made? Or do you just treat based on symptoms and assumptions that your horse has NTW's? I've got a VERY itchy gelding who last year, opened a 6 inch gash on his sheath from trying to scratch himself on a pine tree. He! turns into a huge open, oozing, itchy sore from his chin, all the way along his ventral midline to his tail. He's in a fly sheet and on a high flax diet this year and there is improvement, but he's still got some oozy sores on his chest. He's the DEVIL to deworm, but to keep him comfortable, I'll try anything!

    I read the COTH thread when it was first written (and honestly didn't keep up w/ it when it went over 50 pages!), I know it was discussed that Equimax was the "dewormer of choice" at that time, has it been confirmed that plain Ivermectin was just as effective?

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    I go by symptoms... a real "fly allergy" would respond somewhat to antihistamine treatment, and Wisher's condition didn't show any improvement at all with antihistamines. Flaxseed is a powerful anti-inflammatory and that would shut down the irritation factor a little bit.

    Positive diagnosis can be made by a tissue biopsy. However, in some cases, the juveniles might have receded far enough into the tissue that it would have to be a lot more than just a little skin off the surface. Still, tissue biopsy is pricey and as noted, Ivermectin is pretty darn safe. If your horse has had EPM or a neurological disease, or symptoms that are not "extremely itchy, raw skin, open sores on the crest, chest, belly", then you're definitely going to want to consult your vet and get the horse biopsied first. COTH did have one horse die after this deworming with weird neurological symptoms, and another's EPM symptoms returned and she had to be euthanized. Neither of them showed "classic" symptoms.

    Either way, the ivermectin is safe at a double-dose level (barring complications of EPM), and it worked VERY well on horses with severe itching, open sores and fly sensitivity. Other horses showed no reaction at all, and one or two improved a little bit, but didn't clear up as well as others (these may have been actual allergies). Neck Threadworms can also present with "weird bumps" along the crest, withers/along the back, chest and belly year-round, stocking up in the legs. However, some people who tried this out were getting a little over-excited IMO and assuming every horse with a weird bump had neck threadworms. It seemed like a 50/50 hit or miss on that one for most of them who didn't show any other symptoms but weird bumps.

    It might be interesting to note that Wisher's sire, who she lived with for all of her life but a few months and the last year or so, had contracted tendons when he was a foal and also periodically rubs his mane/tail/belly. I'm thinking she picked them up from him, since they've lived and been turned out together. They may have even CAUSED his tendon problems.

    Since these things can be transfered horse to horse, it's possible that other horses in my herd have got them, too. Lukas and Gooser both show signs of itchiness that is "beyond normal."

    Yes, it was discussed and though Equimax seemed to be the most effective, other people had good results with an ivermectin-only dewormer. The praziquantel is 14% (higher than Eqvalan/Zimectrin Gold, which has 7% praziquantel), and the ivermectin is 1.87% in both. Cheaper ivermectin dewormers on the market have 1.55% Ivermectin... which may be less effective than 1.87%. I chose Panomec because it had 1.87% and no major "don't give this to your horses!" warnings around the internet... lol. It was very debatable whether the praziquantel had any effect on the NWTs... most people thought it did not, and that the Ivermectin was the main ammo against the little yuckies.

    As you probably recall, a lot of people were not seeing results until they weighed (by girth/body length calculation) their horse and got a more accurate weight estimate. Several people were under-dosing the horse and getting no results, but got big results when they fixed the dose.

    Also, some people did not see any changes in the horse until after "Week 3 doses."

    There was one or two people who did Ivermectin on a weekly dose instead of a Double, and it appeared to take longer to resolve the symptoms, including the after-reactions. Some others used Equimax Double Week 1, then an Ivermectin single dose on Week 3, then another Equimax Double on Week 5.

    Basically... it all seemed to get the job done... but IMO, (after reading the whole thread) the double-dose was the key to really knocking the microfiliarae out quickly. The single doser of ivermectin weekly seemed to take a lot longer to resolve symptoms than horses who had double-doses.
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    Senior Member+ gaitedboomer's Avatar
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    I THINK it takes a skin scraping to make the diagnosis, but I'm not sure.

    I know I fought it last year and, I too, had followed the COTH thread for well over a year. Finally last year I concluded that I had to be dealing with NTW's because nothing cleared the sores up.

    I double-dosed everyone with pure Ivermectin and dosed them again three weeks later, even though the COTH thread recommends two weeks. It did the trick. Three of my four had varying degrees of NTW but all four got wormed anyway.

    With my horses, there was a HUGE reaction by the dieing microfiliae. Anywhere between 24 & 48 hours the skin lesions had one last major eruption, which I kept clean with betadine water then put anti-itch cream and antiobiotics on them. The lesions healed quickly after that --- very quickly --- less than a week.

    So that made a believer out of me. Just a reminder that those nasty little creatures can also migrate into the eyes and be responsible for Moon Blindness in some instances.

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    Pics from today... this is not as bad as it was last year or in 2009... probably because the colder weather has been helping to keep the irritation down. But when it suddenly gets hot out, she starts itching like crazy. I'll be taking pics every 3 days to note changes, and notebooking her behavior/symptoms.

    She's also been a lunatic since she was 5. She's always forward, but her attitude has been getting worse, and she's been rearing more and more often under saddle, even during regular riding, acting spooky, and just "jittery", obnoxious. She's literally almost unrideable, even for me! I think the worsening of her itching symptoms and her psycho-princess behavior are related... I mean, I'd be pretty psycho if I was that itchy all the time, too. Some people noticed attitude changes in their horses-- horses getting more snuggly, calmer, nicer. I'm hoping this does the same for Wisher! I want my forward-but-not-crazy girl back.

    Wisher's mane:


    Tail:


    Girth/slightly behind girth:


    Belly button/mid-belly:



    Whole belly (hind end on left):
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    I'm prepped with Benadryl and three different antiseptics (Virkon, Honey, Lanacane spray...). I'm just doing the symptomatic ones right now, but will probably do the others in the next month or so.

    Which Ivermectin product did you use again, GB? I saw your posts on COTH about it but there was so much info packed into two nights of reading that I forget now. LOL
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    Senior Member+ gaitedboomer's Avatar
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    I can't remember which brand I used. I know I bought it at Tractor Supply and made sure it said "1.87% Ivermectin" and that it wasn't a combination of Ivermectin and something else.

    I should add that I wormed my Walking Horses with two tubes of wormer. My Arab is only 13.3H, weighs around 840# and has ulcer issues. I wormed him with one full tube for a 1,200 pound horse. He's the one that is horrible allergic to midge fly bites and tick bites - it's a Catch 22 when dealing with his ulcers

    The 1,200# single tube worked really great on him. Matter-of-fact, so far this year, his belly line still has a full "head of hair"; I can't believe it!.

    I recognize those sores in your pictures I would keep my Arab washed every night. When I turned him out in the morning, I slathered a 50-50 mix of hemerhoid ointment and diaper rash cream down his belly (ya, I used a semi load of that stuff the diaper rash cream stays on really well and keeps the flies off. After I slathered all that on, I would lightly spray over it with fly spray.

    I also load the bottoms of everyone's tails with fly spray, so when they swat underneath themselves, there's some flyspray getting flung around --- for five minutes anyway--

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    Have you not done scrapings, my favorite Big Brain? You DO have the resources...

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    Interesting!

    I've been battling with a very similar issue that started "out of the blue" last year. It's been a full year now and I'm barely getting any regrowth on the mane and tail, and what does seem to be coming in is starting to get rubbed out.

    I've been using Eqyss Microtek spray every other day and rubbing the mane and tail with papertowels soaked with it. He's improved a bit being on Smartpak's Smartshine Ultra (flax, omegas, fish oil, etc......now on SmartDarkandHandsome).

    This whole time I've been going back and forth between sweet itch and fly/gnat sensitivity, but when you mentioned tiny, random patches of rainrot....well, that got me. Raja has done the same thing (although not this year).

    Here are some pics of Raja's problem areas (mane and base of tail):



    Well, I can't find the pics of his tail, but it looked similar to the mane except with less hair and some sores from rubbing so much. He also develops a bald patch on his stomach as well right behind the girth area.

    I'll take some current pictures tonight or tomorrow, as his mane and tail do look better and do have some new growth, but it's like I'm still not really winning the battle. He just doesn't look as funky or crusty.

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    I HATE all things Micro tech.. it's not good.. I know "we" use it, but I've never seen anything good come of it. I have actually seen things go worse with anything microtech..
    IIIBars is like me. She has anything at her disposal if she wants it.

    Mia, it's not lice? No chicken or other fowl resting on your horses? Anything used other than Micro tech? It's such... it's not great product IMO and IMPO. We don't hasve it in the barn and we have over 70 head with 13 more on the way. We do have skin issues, but Microtek wouldn't cut it.
    III Bars is one of the bigger brains I know, and she has resources available to her as do I. .. My Q is what do the scrapings show? And have you used dex and has it changed the irritation any? And that thread on COTH was gross and too long.. BUT informative

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