Who knew such small creatures could wreak such havoc? Ticks are every horse keeper’s nightmare. These blood-sucking creepy crawlies are a menace to livestock and a pain to prevent. Not only that, one bite could cause your horse to get sick making you spend more than it took to keep these creepers away.
Scientifically classified as Arachnida — also including spiders. Records suggest that these buggers have been around for more than 90 million years. These arachnids require blood to complete their life cycles. Most bites don’t transmit any harmful microbes but there are, however, a variety of tick-borne diseases.
Ticks are vectors of diseases for animals and humans. They transmit viruses to a variety of hosts; some can even cause economic harm such as bovine babesiosis, more commonly known as 'Texas Fever' in cattle that kills up to 90% of nurslings cows. Ticks act as carriers for microbes in their mouth when they transmit their secretions into the horse’s skin and blood.
According to Healthline.com, ticks prefer warm, moist areas of the body. Once a tick gets on your body, they’re likely to migrate to your armpits, groin, or hair. When they’re in a desirable spot, they bite into your skin and begin drawing blood. Unlike most varieties of insects that bite, ticks normally remain attached to your horse's body after snacking on them. It's easy to identify whether or not your horse is suffering from a horse infestation because the tick stays attached to them. After a period of up to ten days of drawing blood from your horse, an engorged tick will detach itself and eventually fall off.
It’s an unpleasant feeling to find out that your horse is covered in ticks. These small yet annoying creatures come in hoards and bring unwanted diseases to farm animals. Aside from causing skin irritation, they also bring bacterial infections and small abscesses.
There are three primary tick-borne diseases that horse owners need to look out for:
These tick-borne diseases are diagnosed via blood testing. If you notice that your horse exhibits any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately for a blood test. Antibiotics are the primary source of treatment for horses suffering from anaplasmosis and Lyme disease. But with piroplasmosis, treatment is based on the species of parasite involved. However, the drugs used have unpropitious side effects, and a conclusive cure is unlikely.
Aside from controlling the environment where horses live by curtailing exposure to a tick habitat, specific direct measures must be taken to prevent ticks from infesting your horses. The most important thing for you to do is to inspect your horse daily to find and remove ticks as soon as they appear. The less time a tick is attached to a horse, the smaller the chance for disease transmission. In fact, some horse keepers report that tick removal within 24 hours is key to the prevention of infection, mainly of Lyme disease.
Skin checks are equally as important for horses who frequent deep grassy areas and wooded trails. Use both yours eyes and hands to find ticks on your horse particularly along the belly, groin, mane, tail chin, and arm pits. Ticks have the ability to attach themselves anywhere they want provided there's skin they can bite, but they particularly like the softer and less hairy areas of the horse, which are often not as well protected.
Be careful when removing ticks. To avoid leaving behind any of its mouth accessories, stuck in your horse's skin. Use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick's mouth parts and get as close to the surface as possible. Apply gentle traction without twisting, and the ticks should pop right off. Check that you have indeed removed all mouth parts and the head.
Currently, there is no vaccine against Lyme Disease, but there is ongoing research to decipher if it's safe to use canine Lyme disease vaccines on equines.
Send some live ticks to the lab to test for Lyme Disease. That way, you can take pre-emptive measures for your horse before any symptoms show up. Consult with your veterinarian about the logistics of carrying this out. Destroy all the other ticks in open flame, immersing them in a jar filled with alcohol or formalin or by simply flushing them down the toilet.
Standard methods for tick prevention are insecticides, such as permethrin or cypermethrin. Alternatives for industrial-strength chemicals are wipe-on, or spray products such as shampoos or powders applied to a horse's coat. Helpful as they are, these products don't guarantee total protection from ticks from attaching, biting, or transmitting diseases to your horse. Topical medication is effective only for the duration of the chemical acting as a repellant. However, said repellant wears off in four to six hours.
Another option for pest control would be Malathion spray, but you need to dilute it before you use it. Malathion is an insecticide in the chemical family known as organophosphates. It's highly accessible as you can purchase it at any home or garden store, but remember, you can't use it directly from the bottle. You HAVE to dilute it. Most instructions say one part malathion to 32 parts water.
And as always, check with your veterinarian if it's alright to be spraying insecticides on or near your horses. Only apply when you have the go signal.
For those of you that are worried about using chemicals on your horses, fear not! There are natural solutions. On the upside, it’s better for your horse. On the downside, it takes a lot more effort to apply because you need to do it daily. It’s a small price to pay for keeping your horse healthy and tick free.
1. Combat ticks with oils
There are different types of oils, both edible and for flavoring. Not only are they good for health, but many of their scents are a natural repellent for ticks. Here are two recipes:
✔ Olive oil and essential oils
You will need:
Preparing your home remedy is very easy: add 50 milliliters of olive oil in the atomizer and add between 10 and 15 drops of essential oils. Spray in areas where ticks are often located, avoiding the eyes and snout of the horse. It also sprinkles the spaces of the stable.
✔ Olive oil and alcohol
You will need:
Mix the alcohol and olive oil into the atomizer and spray on the affected areas.
2. Fight ticks with lemons
The properties of lemon are innumerable. Among its various uses and applications, it is the main ingredient in two solutions against ticks on horses:
✔ Aloe vera and lemon juice
You will need:
The first thing to do is squeeze the lemons as hard as you can to extract as much juice as possible. Next, peel the leaves of the aloe. Ideally, at the cuts on the side, where you will see a division, extract the glass (the slimey substance it contains). Wash the aloe vera glass with a little water and place in the atomizer, along with the lemon juice.
To this preparation add 6 spoonfuls of salt and 2 of baking soda. Shake well and spray on the ticks of your horse, letting it dry.
✔ Lemon, essential oils, and apple cider vinegar
You will need:
In a pot, bring 4 cups of water to the boil with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and half a tablespoon of alcohol. Squeeze the lemon and then add about 10 drops of the essential oils. Stir the preparation until it boils and let it cool. Pour in the atomizer and spray on the horse.
3. Manage your land as much as possible
Keeping your grounds as clean as you can help to eradicate spots where ticks can thrive.
It's worth the energy keeping ticks off you and your horse. Tick prevention prevents disease in your horse, and you'll be less likely to get sick too!