Last Updated on July 20, 2022
As a horse owner, you might be wondering how to keep ticks off horses. These little parasites can be a big problem, especially as they are so hard to spot! Let’s find out how to keep ticks off horses, and what to do if you spot a tick on your horse.
What Are Ticks? How To Keep Ticks Off Horses
Ticks are external parasites that can attach themselves to many different mammals, including people and horses. They are blood-sucking parasites that attach themselves to the skin to feed. Here they grow rapidly as they engorge themselves with blood, before dropping off to move onto the next stage of their life cycle.
Ticks can cause significant problems to their host animal. They can transmit a number of diseases directly into the bloodstream of their host, and a severe infestation can lead to anemia or death. They can also cause skin wounds where they attach to the host, which can become infected with bacteria or screwworms.
There are many different types of ticks, and each one has a preferred host animal and a favored feeding site. However, they can feed on animals other than their preferred host, and may also attach themselves to alternative sites on the body.
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Do Horses Get Ticks?
A tick infestation is common in animals that live outdoors in rural or wild locations. Any horse that goes outside can get ticks, although they are more likely in animals that roam through longer grass and wild areas. Ticks are often spread by deer and other wild animals, as well as domesticated sheep.
In recent years ticks have become more widespread across the US – this may be due to climate change, or an increase in the wild animal population. Ticks can be a big problem for horse owners, as the horse will rub on fences to get rid of the irritation, leading to hair loss. Ticks can also transmit some serious diseases to horses including Lyme Disease, Equine Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (Ehrlichiosis), Equine Piroplasmosis, and Tick Paralysis.
Ticks attach themselves to horses by waiting on the tip of a blade of grass, waiting for the animal to pass by. They are blind, and will detect the presence of a horse by sensing heat, vibrations, moisture, and ammonia given off by the breath and body during sweating.
As the horse passes by the tick, it climbs onto the body. Some will attach to the skin immediately, whilst others will move around in an attempt to find their preferred site of attachment. They prefer areas where the skin is thinner, such as the chest and underbelly.
When a tick initially attaches to a horse, it will feel like a small nodule. It will grow quickly and darken in color as it fills with blood. Once it has filled with blood, it will drop off the horse to molt or lay eggs.
One problem tick of horses is the spinous ear tick, that attaches inside the ear canal. These can cause severe irritations and in some cases will lead to paralysis.
How To Keep Ticks Off Horses
There are two ways to keep ticks off horses. The first of these is to reduce the number of ticks in the environment, and the second is to use deterrents to prevent them from attaching to the horse.
The number of ticks on your pasture land can be decreased by mowing tall grass and removing brush. Fences can be used to prevent deer from accessing your grazing areas. Free-range chickens or guinea fowl will find and eat ticks in the grass and around the yard.
Chemical insect repellents can be used to deter ticks, as well as kill any that attempt to attach themselves to your horse. The availability of effective tick repellents will depend on your location and who you buy them from. Your veterinary clinic or local agricultural supplies store will stock products such as Frontline spray, which can be applied on areas that are prone to tick infestation.
How To Remove Ticks From Horses
The key to preventing problems with ticks is to remove them from your horse as soon as possible. Check the chest and underbelly daily, and again after a trail ride. Feel for small bumps on the skin, and remove any ticks that you find.
Removing ticks can be tricky, as using the wrong technique can cause more harm than good. The best way to remove ticks is by using a tick removal hook, which twists the tick away from the skin of the horse without causing any damage. Do not be tempted to crush the tick, as it may regurgitate contaminated blood back into the horses bloodstream.
So, as we have learned, the question of how to keep ticks off horses is twofold. Firstly we need to reduce the number of ticks in the environment, and also use deterrents to prevent them from attaching to the horse. Ticks that attach to the horse should be removed as soon as possible using a tick removal hook.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to keep ticks off horses! Do you have an innovative or unusual way of keeping ticks off horses? Or maybe you have another parasite problem in horses that you need some help with? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Do Ticks Bother Horses?
Ticks will cause localized skin irritation in horses, which can lead to secondary bacterial infections. They can also transmit infectious blood-borne diseases to horses.
What Is The Best Way To Repel Ticks In Horses?
Ticks do not like certain strong smells, so an essential oil blend containing lemon, orange, lavender, or peppermint can be used to keep them at bay.
Does Vinegar Keep Ticks Away From Horses?
A strong smelling vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar, can be used to deter ticks from horses. It should be mixed with water and sprayed onto the coat at regular intervals.
What Is The Best Tick Repellent For Horses?
The best way to keep ticks from horses is to reduce the population of ticks in the environment, by mowing long grass and trimming back brush and scrub.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE