Ticks and Horses

Most adult local horses have built up a resistance to ticks. Ticks affect foals and young horses more severely as well as immune-compromised older horses. Miniature horses may be more sensitive due to their size but usually build up a resistance over time. Horses which have been introduced to the area may not have built up a resistance to the local ticks and may also be at risk of a bad reaction.

There are many species of ticks. The ones which can harm your horse are usually paralysis ones. The major symptoms of paralysis tick infestation are weakness and/or wobbliness, breathing difficulties, falling or; lying down, off their feed, or off-colour in any way..

Because of these symptoms, the deadly Hendra Virus could be mistaken for Tick paralysis. That is why if such symptoms are showing, even if they appear mild, call your vet immediately!

Treatment for horses badly affected by tick paralysis is expensive due to the cost of the tick antitoxin and possible intensive care. Early detection and veterinary treatment can lead to a more favorable prognosis.

If you find a tick on your horse and the horse appears to not be at all affected or unwell, you can pull the tick straight off. Dr Dave usually twists the tick 180 degrees, then pulls it straight out. This helps to unhook the tick’s oral barbs, hopefully reducing the risk of leaving a head. Occasionally leaving the head can result in infection. Associated minor swelling from a tick can be reduced via icing or cold water therapy.

Although it is very difficult to prevent tick infestation entirely, you can do the following to reduce your horses risk:

  • Keep grass low
  • Spray with something like permoxin as frequently as the label directs. Be very careful with the toxicity of some treatments. Cattle sprays in particular can harm your horse because cows are more resistant to organophosphates.
  • Try rugging or flynets
  • Check your horses all over everyday. Giving them a nice brush is an excellent way to do this, as it makes you go over all areas. Plus there’s the added bonus of a beautiful coat and increasing skin circulation. Most ticks prefer softer tissues so the groin, ‘armpits’, bellies and around the face are often tick hot-spots.