If your horse comes in from the pasture or from a trail ride covered with ticks, he could be facing potential health risks. In many areas of the country, ticks come with warmer weather and can stick around well into the late fall. Here’s what you need to know about ticks and how to keep your horse healthy.
Health Risks of Ticks
Ticks transmit a number of diseases to horses, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and equine piroplasmosis. Some horses may show no signs of having contracted a tick-borne disease, while others can develop a variety of symptoms including fever, muscle wasting, lameness and more.
Even if a tick doesn’t transmit one of these diseases to a horse, the site of a tick bite can become swollen and itchy. Scientists believe that ticks need to be attached for about 24 hours to transmit disease, but it’s best to prevent ticks from biting at all to help minimize that risk.
- Use Topical Preventives. Some fly sprays offer tick preventive properties, and there are a number of topical treatments you can use to help deter ticks from biting your horse. Products like Equi-Spot help to repel ticks as well as flies. If you use a topical product, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and test it on a small area to make sure your horse doesn’t react.
- Clip Your Horse’s Legs. Clipping your horse’s legs can make it easier for you to spot ticks before they have time to climb up his legs and bite. Pay particular attention to the longer hair behind his fetlocks. Clip a few times each summer so that you can run your hands over his legs and easily tell if ticks are there.
- Keep Pastures Mowed. Mowing your pastures helps to get rid of tall grass, which ticks tend to climb. Without this tall grass, ticks are less likely to transfer onto your horse’s legs. Clear brush from fence lines, too, where ticks like to live.
- Stay on the Trails. When you’re trail riding, try to stick to the trails and don’t venture off into fields of tall grass. Spray your horse thoroughly with a fly spray that also repels ticks before venturing into the woods.
Check Your Horse Daily. Check your horse over daily for ticks, especially after he comes in from the pasture or after a trail ride. Ticks often move up your horse’s legs and bite near the chest or where his legs attach to his body.
If you do find a tick on your horse, wear gloves and use tweezers to remove it. Grasp the tick only by its head and firmly pull it out; grabbing the tick by the body can make it regurgitate blood into your horse, increasing the chance of transmitting disease. Once the tick is removed, put it into a container of rubbing alcohol to kill it.
If a tick bites your horse, note the location of the bite and the date when it occurred. Keep an eye on the area to make sure that it heals well; if you notice any unusual symptoms, call your vet. Many horses recover from tick bites without incident, but the more information you have, the faster your vet can make a diagnosis if your horse does have a tick-borne disease.
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