Summer time brings tick season to many areas. Keeping horses free from these eight-legged, hard-bodied arachnids known as ticks can be a frustrating task for horse owners. Ticks are small and difficult to see. Powerful jaws make them seemingly impossible to remove. They transmit potentially life-threatening diseases.
And these little blood suckers are not fussy about their victims, since they will bite not only your horse, but you, family members and your household pets.
If you live in an area where ticks thrive, it is important to know what kind of ticks are in the area and how they can affect your horse. Often local extension offices or animal science programs at colleges and universities will have information about ticks in particular areas.
Tick bites can cause irritation and restlessness in horses. Large numbers of ticks on an animal can cause extensive blood loss that could result in potentially life-threatening anemia.
In addition, ticks can also transmit diseases as they feed on their host's blood, such as Lyme disease, piroplasmosis (babesiosis), equine granulocytic anaplasmosis (EGA, formerly called equine ehrlichiosis), and equine infectious anemia.
Although it is difficult to locate ticks on your horse's body, note that all ticks will cause your horse to scratch. If you witness rubbing against a fence post or stall wall, immediately examine the skin in the area your horse has rubbed. If you spot a tick, immediately remove it. If you see a welt along an attachment site, it is a sign that a deer tick has bitten your horse but since dropped off.
If you find a tick on your horse's body, remove it immediately.
However, forget all the old-wives tales about how to remove the tick.
What NOT TO DO in removing a tick from your horse:
Don't try to crush or twist the tick, apply baby oil or petroleum, or attack it with a lighted match. These methods can cause the tick to regurgitate blood back into your horse, which increases the chance of infection or disease transmission. Worse, the above methods can cause the head to detach from the body, where it will remain beneath the skin.
Instead, use a pair of tweezers to remove the tick:
- Grab the tick firmly by the head, where it enters the skin
- Pull - do not yank - firmly and steadily straight away from the skin
- Dispose of the tick properly in a small jar of rubbing alcohol
- Wash the attachment site with a mild antiseptic
- Wash your hands
Once you have removed a tick from your horse's body, place the tick in a sealed glass jar that has been filled with rubbing alcohol.
Effective tick control is essential around your barn, pasture, and home. As with most insect control procedures, diligence is necessary to help protect your horse. To help prevent tick infestations, choose a suitable spray or wipe-on repellent specifically designed to control ticks. Make sure you follow the instructions and reapply whenever necessary.
Also, carefully check your horse during regular daily grooming routines.