Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Ticks Found on Horse

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • To discuss your equine's general health and management.

Tick infestation (on the body or ears) usually occurs during the spring, summer and early fall, but certain species of ticks can be seen attached to horses in the winter. Backcountry riding exposes you and your horse to ticks.

Ticks cause a variety of conditions in horses. Ear ticks cause ear inflammation and sometimes resulting bacterial ear infection. Ticks can cause local skin lesions including crusts, bumps and scabs with variable itchiness.

Importantly, ticks transmit a variety of diseases to horses and other animals including Babesia (Piroplasmosis) blood parasites, Anaplasma (Ehrlichiosis), Lyme Disease, Tularemia, and Theileria. Certain tick species can cause a condition known as tick paralysis, from toxins produced by the tick. This can cause weakness, wobbliness, even signs of abdominal pain (colic) and collapse.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to attitude and appetite. Share your findings and concerns with your vet. If there are only a few ticks on your horse, you may attempt to remove them yourself. If tick infestation is severe, however, you may have your vet remove them after performing an exam.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will evaluate your horse’s general health in light of the risk of disease, and may recommend changes in management. Vets can use an otoscope and instruments to safely remove ear ticks. Sedation is often required to do this thoroughly and safely.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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