Open Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 2013, 3, 267-272
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojvm.2013.36043 Published Online October 2013 (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ojvm)
Prevalence of Gastrointestinal Parasites of Horses and
Donkeys in and around Gondar Town, Ethiopia
Tola Mezgebu1, Ketema Tafess2, Firaol Tamiru3*
1Jimma Arjo District Animal Health and Marketing Agency, East Wollega Zone, Arjo, Ethiopia
2Department of Biomedical Science, School of Health, Adama Science and Technology University, Asella, Ethiopia
3Department of Veterinary Laboratory Technology, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Science,
Ambo University, Ambo, Ethiopia
Received July 25, 2013; revised August 25, 2013; accepted September 10, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Tola Mezgebu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
A cross sectional study was conducted from October 2010 to June 2011 in and around Gondar town to identify the spe-
cies and determine prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites in donkeys and horses. Gross examination, direct fecal smear,
sedimentation and floatation techniques were utilized to identify the eggs and larvae of parasites in feces. A total of 384
horses and donkeys were examined for gastrointestinal parasites. The overall prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites
was 92.71% (356 from 384) with 80.95% (85 from 105) and 97.13% (271 from 279) in horses and donkeys, respec-
tively. Prevalence of Strongyle, Parascaris equorum, Oxyuris equi, Gastrodiscus aegyptiacus and Gastroph ilus intesti-
nalis was 66.67%, 43.8%, 0.95%, 2.86%, and 0.95%, respectively in horses. Prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites was
87.81%, 42.29%, 4.30%, 5.73%, 1.43%, 3.58% and 0.72% for Strongyles, Parasca ris eq uoru m, Oxyuris equi, Fasciola,
Tricuris, Gastrodiscus aegyptiacus and Gastrophilus intestinalis in donkeys, respectively. There was a statistic- cally
significant difference between species, housing and among feed types in prevalence of equine gastrointestinal parasites
(p < 0.05). However, there was no statistical significant difference in prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites between
age, sex and among body condition. Donkeys were at higher risk of acquiring parasites than horses (OR = 7.97, CI =
3.39 - 18.75) and animals that fed only pasture and lived in poor house were at increased risk of acquiring infection (OR
= 9.59, CI = 3.25 - 28.25). In conclusion, the present study revealed higher prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites in
horses and donkeys. Therefore, continuous deworming, improvement of housing and feeding management were rec-
Keywords: Donkeys; Gondar; Gastrointestinal Parasites; Horse; Prevalence
In the developing world, there are estimated 110 mil-
lions of equines . Ethiopia has about 7.9 million
equines  and possesses approximately half of the Af-
rica’s equine population with 37% donkeys, 58% horses
and 46% mules . There is one equine for every four
people in the agricultural sector and for every five per-
sons of the total population . Equines have a promi-
nent position in the agricultural systems of many devel-
oping countries . In Ethiopia, the low level of devel-
opment of the road transport network and the rough ter-
rain of the country make the donkeys and the horses the
most valuable, appropriate and affordable pack animals
under the small holder farming system . They can be
used for such applications as riding, driving, flock pro-
tection, companion, breeding, training calves  and
provide urban dwellers with opportunity of income gen-
Parasitic helminthes are one of the most common fac-
tors that constrain the health and working performance of
donkeys and horses worldwide. They cause various de-
grees of damage depending on the species and number at
present, nutritional and the immune status of eqiuds .
They decrease the performance, production and produc-
tivity in the animals mainly in the reduction of body
weight or failure to gain weight or even increase the
mortality in acute case . A number of studies con-
ducted to detect association between poverty and animal
diseases identified gastrointestinal parasitism as one of
the most important problems for eqiuds in developing
opyright © 2013 SciRes. OJVM
T. MEZGEBU ET AL.
The prevalence and type of internal parasites affecting
eqiuds, in general, are ubiquitous with equines being
continually exposed throughout their lives. Although
they are often heavily parasitized by helminthes , the
prevalence and type of internal parasites affecting eqiuds
have not been determined to a great extent in Ethiopia,
particularly in and around Gondar town. Available in-
formation however, indicates that gastrointestinal para-
sites are the major cause of early demises of working
donkeys and horses in Ethiopia [5,14-17]. Therefore, the
current study was conducted to identify the species and
determine prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites of
donkeys and horses in the study area.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Study Area
The study was conducted from October 2010 to June
2011 on horses and donkeys in and around Gondar town,
Ethiopia. Gondar is administrative center of North Gon-
dar zone found at 748 km away from Addis Ababa, capi-
tal of Ethiopia. North Gondar zone is located at 550 -
4620 m above sea level. The rain fall varies from 880
mm to 1772 mm with monomodial distribution. The an-
nual temperature ranges from 10˚C to 44.5˚C. The zone
is divided into three main agro-climatic zones: high land,
mid land and low land region. The farming system of the
study area is characterized by a mixed (crop-livestock
production) farming system. There are 31,456 horses,
272,655 donkeys and 13,612 mules in the zone .
2.2. Study Design and Animals
A cross sectional study was conducted on 384 randomly
selected horses and donkeys (105 cart horses and 279
donkeys). Information about species, sex, age, body con-
dition and management system of the study animals were
gathered from the owners. The ages of animals were de-
termined using owners’ information and dentition .
Accordingly, animals were categorized as young (<2
years) and adults (>2 years). Body condition score (BCS)
was subjectively estimated based on the guides published
by Svendsen  as 1 (emaciated), 2 (thin), 3 (good), 4
(fat) and 5 (obese). These were categorized into three
groups as ≤2, 3 and ≥4 to represent BCS 1 and 2, 3, 4 and
2.3. Study Methodology
Fecal samples were collected directly from the rectum
into universal bottle using sterile disposable gloves. Each
sample was labeled with necessary information and im-
mediately transported to Veterinary Parasitology Labo-
ratory, University of Gondar. Samples were kept in re-
frigerator at 4˚C if immediate processing was not possi-
ble, but it had been processed within 48 hours. Gross
examination was performed immediately after sample
collection for larvae recovery and the recovered larvae of
Gastrophilus species was identified using stereomicro-
scope. Direct fecal smear, sedimentation and floatation
techniques were the utilized parasitological techniques to
identify the eggs in feces and examined microscopically
(10× and 40×) for presence of parasite ova following
their procedures. Identification of the eggs was made on
the basis of their morphology .
2.4. Data Analysis
The collected data were coded and entered into Microsoft
Excel spread sheet. Statistical analyses were performed
using SPSS, version 17 software packages. Percentage
was used to calculate prevalence. Data were statistically
analyzed using chi-square. Univariate logistic and multi-
variate regressions were used to calculate degree of asso-
ciation between risk factors and prevalence of gastroin-
testinal parasites. In all cases 95% confidence interval
(CI) and p < 0.05 was considered for statistically signifi-
An overall of 92.71% (356/384) equine gastrointestinal
parasites prevalence was obtained in the current study
with 80.95% (85/105) and 97.13% (271/279) prevalence
in horses and donkeys, respectively. There was statisti-
cally significant difference between species, housing and
among feed type in prevalence of equine gastrointestinal
parasites (p < 0.05). However, there was no statistical
significant difference in prevalence of gastrointestinal
parasites between age, sex and among body condition (p
> 0.05) (Table 1).
Eggs/larvae of different parasites were observed in
both equine species under the study. Five and seven dif-
ferent types of eggs/larvae were observed during cop-
rological examination in horses and donkeys, respec-
tively. Strongyle-type eggs were the highly prevalent
eggs with 66.67% in horses and 87.81% in donkeys
while Gastrophilus intestinalis larvae and Oxyuris equi
egg (0.95%) in horses, and Gastrop hilus intestinalis lar-
vae (0.72%) in donkeys were the least prevalent parasites
Univariate logistic and multivariate regression analysis
was also undertaken estimate the strength of association
of risk factor with gastrointestinal parasites infection in
the study animals. Donkeys were found to be 7.97 times
at risk of developing gastrointestinal parasite than horse
(OR = 7.97, 95% CI = 3.39 - 18.75). Animals fed only
pasture and live in poor hous ng system were found to be i
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OJVM
T. MEZGEBU ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OJVM
Table 1. Prevalence of equine gastrointestinal parasites between/among risk factors.
Variables No. of examined equine (%) No. of positive (%) χ2 p-value
Horse 105 85 (80.95) 29.5 0.001
Donkey 279 271 (97.13)
Male 226 210 (92.92) 0.037 0.848
Female 158 146 (92.4)
Adult 368 340 (92.39) 1.32 0.252
Young 16 16 (100)
≥4 23 23 (100) 2.56 0.277
3 72 68 (94.44)
≤2 289 265 (91.69)
Pasture 280 272 (97.14) 30.2 0.001
Mixed 92 74 (80.43)
Grain 12 10 (83.33)
Good 161 137 (85.09) 23.78 0.001
Poor 223 219 (98.2)
Table 2. Prevalence of helminth parasite of horses and donkeys from coprological examination.
Egg/larvae of parasite
No. of examined Positive Prevalence (%) No. of examined Positive Prevalence
Strongyle 105 70 66.67 279 245 87.81
Parascaris 105 46 43.81 279 118 42.29
Oxyuris equi 105 1 0.95 279 12 4.3
Fasciola 105 0 0 279 16 5.73
Tricuris 105 0 0 279 4 1.43
G. aegyptiacus 105 3 2.86 279 10 3.58
G. intestinalis 105 1 0.95 279 2 0.72
6.8 and 9.59 times at increased risk for gastrointestinal
parasite (OR = 6.8, CI = 1.27 - 36.23 and 9.59, 95% CI
=3.25 - 28.25), respectively. After adjustment of odds
ratio, poor housing was found to be significantly associ-
ated with gastrointestinal parasite infection in the study
animals (AOR = 5.79) (Table 3).
In the present study, an overall of 92.71% prevalence of
gastrointestinal parasites with 80.95% in horses and
97.13% in donkeys were obtained. The higher gastroin-
testinal parasites prevalence (97.13%) observed in don-
keys in the current study is in line of agreement with
T. MEZGEBU ET AL.
Table 3. The association between independent logistic variable and helminth parasites infestation of equine.
Risk factors Group data No. examined Positive sample OR Adjusted OR CI χ2 p-value
Species Donkey 279 97.1% 7.97 2.23
Horse 105 81% 1 1
3.39 - 18.75 29.54 0.001
Pasture 280 97.1% 6.8 2.48
Mixed 92 80.4% 0.8220.75
1.27 - 36.23 26.11 0.001
Grain 12 83.3% 1 1
Poor 223 98.2% 9.59 5.79
good 161 85.1% 1 1
3.25 - 28.25 4.85 0.001
works of Yoseph et al. , Mulate , Fikru et al. ,
Ayele et al. , Ibrahim et al.  and Wannas et al.
, who reported 100%, 100%, 92.8% 100%, 96.9%
and 100% in Wonchi Awraja, highlands of Wollo prov-
ince, Western highlands of Oromia, in Dugda Bora Dis-
trict, in and around Hawassa town, Ethiopia and Al Di-
waniyah Governorate, respectively. The prevalence in
horse (80.95%) observed in the current study is lower
than 100% prevalence report of Wannas et al.  and
higher than 65.51% (133 from 200) positive fecal sam-
ples for various helminthes . When prevalence be-
tween the species is compared, the lower prevalence in
horses might be due feeding practices in the study area.
All most all of the horses under this study were cart
horses that fed grain byproducts and are less exposed to
pasture grazing. The difference among these findings
from different areas might be due to variation in man-
agement system, sample size and sampling method dif-
Detection of highest prevalence of Strongyle-type eggs
in both species agrees with work of Wannas et al. 
who reported predomination of Strongyle-type eggs with
a prevalence of 50% in horse and 57.14% in donkeys.
Saeed et al.  also reported 58.50% (117 from 200)
Strongyle-type eggs in horses as predominant one.
Strongyles have large numbers of genera and species so
their percents usually represented (75% - 100%) of
whole nematodes infections .
The prevalence of Strongyle-type eggs in horses was
66.67% in the current study which is in close agreement
with 58.50% report of Saeed et al. . The current re-
sult is lower than work of Fikru et al.  who reported
91%. The lower prevalence in the present study could be
due to all horses of this study were cart horses that are
less exposed and in some cases totally restricted from
pasture. The prevalence of Strongyles infestation was
87.81% in donkeys. Similar studies conducted in differ-
ent parts Ethiopia indicated higher prevalence than the
current study with an overall prevalence of 99%, 100%,
100%, 98.2% and 100% in Ada, Akaki Boset ,
Dugda Bora distinct , highlands of Wollo province
, Western highlands of Oromia  and Wonchi ,
Oxyuris equi (0.95%) was one of the least prevalent
eggs of parasite detected in horses and with 4.30% in
donkeys in the current study. This is in agreement with
the work of Ayele et al. , who reported 3% and
Getachew et al.  who reported 2% in donkeys. Study
conducted in Western highlands of Oromia, Ethiopia
indicated 2.1% prevalence of Oxyuris equi in horses .
Similar study in Lesotho showed slight higher prevalence
(6.2%) in horses . The lowest prevalence might be
due to the effect of relative higher temperature in the
present study area which desiccates the highly susceptible
Oxyuris equi egg.
The prevalence of Parascaris equorum was 43.8% in
horses. This result is higher than the prevalence re-
ported in Ethiopia by Yoseph et al. , Fikru et al. ,
Getachew et al.  who reported 15.7%, 7.3%, and
16.2%, respectively and in Lesotho by Melissa et al. 
who reported 21.6% in horses. The prevalence of
Parascaris equorum was 42.29% in donkeys in the pre-
sent study is higher than 15.7% and 17.3% reported by
Yoseph et al.  and Fikru et al.  in donkeys. The
reported prevalence in donkeys from four sites in Ethio-
pia, 43.5% , 50% , 51%  and 51% ,
slightly agrees with the present study. The difference in
prevalence of Parascaris equorum from different reports
in developing countries is somewhat conflicting and this
could be due to compromised immune responses relating
to concurrent disease, but is worthy of further investiga-
The prevalence of Gastrodiscus aegyptiacus and
Gastrophilus intestinalis in the present study were 2.86%
and 3.58%, 0.95% and 0.72% in horses and donkeys,
respectively. The finding of the current study is lower
than report of Getachew et al.  (30%) in donkeys.
Ayele et al.  also reported 6% prevalence in donkeys
of Dugda Bora district. The lower prevalence in the pre-
sent study may be due to the difference in geographical
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OJVM
T. MEZGEBU ET AL. 271
location of the area from other study areas. The preva-
lence of Fasciola was 5.7% in donkeys in the current
study is lower than work of Getachew et al.  who
reported 80% in donkeys. Slight lower prevalence (1.5%)
of fasciolosis in donkeys was reported from Dugda Bora
distinct of Ethiopia . The lower prevalence of Fas-
ciola eggs in the current study compared to the reports of
Getachew et al.  is due to the geographical location
of the area which is not comfortable for the snail popula-
tion, the intermediate host of Fasciola. Only very few
areas, where summer tributaries are dried off are found to
be swampy. The work of Getachew et al.  was in
fasciolosis endemic area and is not representative for the
whole country .
This study confirmed presence of statistical significant
difference between species, housing and among feed type
in prevalence of equine gastrointestinal parasites and
absence of statistical significant difference in prevalence
of gastrointestinal parasites between age, sex and among
body condition. In agreement with this, studies in other
parts of Ethiopia indicated absence of statistical signifi-
cance difference between age groups. However, there is
presence of statistical significant difference in the preva-
lence of the parasites among the different body condition
scores and more prevalence of helminth parasites in ani-
mals with poor body condition than well-conditioned
animals [16,23]. This might be due to increased land of
cultivation which restricts animals on small communal
grazing land which allows animals for continuous expo-
In this study, donkeys were seen to be 7.97 times at
risk of acquiring gastrointestinal parasites than horses.
According to Svendsen and Elisabeth , the donkey
and the horse are closely related, and many of the condi-
tions that affect them are similar; however, detecting
illness in the donkey can be made more difficult by its
stoical nature. This means that donkeys may be in the
advanced stages of a disease before it is noticed or a di-
agnosis is reached and horses may get dewormig than
donkeys before severity of the disease, which might be
related to less risk of acquiring gastrointestinal parasite
diseases. Also it might be related with the feeding prac-
tices as all donkeys under the study were at free grazing
that they have high chance of ingesting large amount of
gastrointestinal parasites eggs and larvae. Horses and
donkeys that feed pasture and live in poor housing were
at higher risk of acquiring gastrointestinal parasites than
those at mixed feed, grain feed and in good house, re-
spectively. It is assumed that there are different risk fac-
tors that contribute to acquiring gastrointestinal parasites
in equines. Among this poor housing was found to be the
major contributing factors in equine which increases the
risk of infestation times than any of the associated risk
factor in the study animals.
5. Conclusions and Recommendations
In conclusion, the study revealed high gastrointestinal
parasites occurrence in and around Gondar in donkeys
and horses. The identified eggs/larvae types include Stron-
gyle, Parascaris equorum, Oxyuris equi, Gastrodiscus
aegyptiacus, Tricuris, Gastrophilus intestinalis and Fas-
ciola. Strongyle and Parascaris equorum eggs were
common with high prevalence in the area of study. Don-
keys were at higher risk of infestation than horses. Spe-
cies (horses and donkeys), type of feed and housing were
the important risk factors for occurrence of gastro-in-
testinal parasites in the equine species. Based on the
above conclusion, the following recommendations were
1) Improvement of housing and feeding managemental
system for equines.
2) Regular deworming and promotion of equine hus-
bandry practices by concerned organs.
The authors are grateful to Faculty of Veterinary Medi-
cine, University of Gondar. Dr. Sefinew Alemu and Ms
Meaza, University of Gondar Veterinary Parasitology
laboratory technician, are also acknowledged for his as-
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