Last Updated on February 19, 2022 by Allison Price
Ticks are an increasing parasite of horses in the United States. They are common in many parts of the country, where they were not present before. Global warming is blamed by some, while others believe that ticks have become more common in areas where they were not before. Ticks can be a serious problem, regardless of their cause. Ticks can cause skin and tissue irritation, which can lead to hair loss, hair coat damage, and anemia due blood loss. They also transmit several serious diseases such as Equine Piroplasmosis and Lyme Disease (Ehrlichiosis), Equine Granulocytic Anplasmosis (Ehrlichiosis), and Tick Paralysis. Ticks can be found on any species of animal, so ticks that feed on horses may also feed on dogs or humans.
Ticks are blind and can find their hosts by detecting ammonia, which is released by horses’ breaths and bodies during sweating, or by sensing heat and moisture. Ticks rest on the tips and branches of grasses or shrubs, with one leg outstretched, while they wait for their host. The tick climbs quickly onto the horse’s back when it passes. Some ticks attach instantly, while others crawl around the horse’s skin looking for thinnest areas. Ticks most commonly attach to a horse’s chest or underbelly. This is usually a skin reaction that manifests as a small, hard nodule. Once they have been soaked in blood, ticks molt to become more mature and can lay eggs.
Ticks with serious diseases are not transmitted immediately by ticks, so it is important to remove them from horses as soon as possible. To prevent disease transmission, make sure to check your horses for ticks after every ride. It is often easier to feel than to see ticks. You can feel the ticks attaching to your horse’s skin by rubbing your fingertips. These small bumps could indicate immature ticks. If you discover a tick on your horse’s skin, get it removed immediately. Tick removal is not as beneficial as it sounds. Don’t twist or crush the tick. This can cause them to inject blood back into horses, increasing the risk of disease transmission or infection. Do NOT use baby oil or petroleum to try to smother them or force them to come apart with a match. These methods are not effective and could cause injury to your horse. To remove the tick, use gloves and tweezers instead. Grab the tick by the neck where it enters the horse’s skin. Don’t squeeze or yank! Instead, pull the tick’s head away from your skin slowly, steadily, and firmly. To kill the tick, place it in a small container of rubbing alcohol. Use mild antiseptic to clean the area and then wash your hands. You can reduce the amount of ticks that your horse might pick up from pasture management by clearing brush and mowing tall grass. This will discourage wildlife like deer, who are known to reintroduce ticks into their grazing areas. Free-range chickens and Guinea fowl are excellent at finding ticks in the barnyard.
To prevent ticks, you must be diligent in locating them and then remove them. You can also apply specific topical acaricides directly to the horse. The most common repellents used are Coumaphos powder or spray; pyrethrins, synthetic pyrethroids, and zetacypermethrin powders. Co-Ral and Deep Woods Off are some of the brands. These should be used to spray the horse’s chest, underbelly, and tail head. The horse doesn’t need to be sprayed in its entirety. You should always check the label of any insect repellent you use to ensure that it is effective against ticks. Before you ride your horses or put them out in the pasture, apply repellents. Orally administered moxidectin and ivermectin dewormers can also be used to repel ticks from horses. However, the tick must be fed a blood meal from the horse being treated in order for it to work. Amitraz should not be used on horses because it can cause serious side effects. Permethrin and Cypermethrin as well as commercial-grade pyrethroids may be applied to paddocks and pastures to kill ticks. However, it is important to follow the label directions or hire a professional pest control specialist to apply them. Pesticides of any kind should be carefully read labels as some products may not be suitable for horses. Foals younger than three months of age should be inspected.
Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions about tick control or diseases that they can transmit.