What are ticks on horses?
Ticks are blood sucking parasites that attach themselves externally to animals. In NZ we have 9 species of ticks, 8 which are native and 1 which is introduced. Most of these are sea bird ticks, but there is also the tuatara and kiwi tick. The tick that mainly affects pets, cattle, sheep and horses is the introduced tick Haemaphysalis longicornis or the Cattle tick. This article will focus on the Haemaphysalis longicornis (the tick) and the affect it has on horses.
What happens in the tick life cycle?
This tick is classed as a three host tick, which means that it has to go through 3 different life stages:- larvae, nymph and adult, feeding off three different hosts, and these may not all be the same species.
The female tick lays her eggs which will attach to vegetation, they hatch into larvae, travel to the tips of vegetation and when an animal or host is passing they will attach themselves to it, this is where they begin their first stage of growth and will feed here till they fall off, back on to the pasture to turn into the next stage which is a nymph. The nymph and adult will follow the same cycle as the larvae, finding a new host to feed on where they will fall off again. At the adult stage they will grow to a size of 9mm x 7mm once fully gorged with blood, when they fall of this time they are ready to lay their eggs and start the cycle again.
On a horse, ticks seem to be a problem in the ears and also areas that come into contact with the vegetation, such as legs and under belly. They can cause anything from mild irritation to a severe bacterial infection if the skin is damaged and disease allowed to enter. If there is an infestation they can cause anaemia, loss of condition and death.
The tick can also cause the disease Theileriosis, which is the intracellular blood parasite that is carried by the tick. Signs associated with this disease are that of anaemia - depression, lethargic, pale mucus membranes, lack of appetite and collapse.
What you can do to help?
You can remove the tick to reduce the affects it will have on your horse.
- Either using fine tipped tweezers or your hands, grab the tick as close to the mouth as possible.
- Do not grab around its swollen body, as you could squeeze blood back into the animals and this could be infected.
- Try to pull the tick straight out gentle, until it mouth lets go. Do not twist or yank the tick as it may break off leaving part of the mouth or head still attached, this could lead to further complications such as infection.
Natural Pets equine range Eponacare has a homeopathic tick and lice remedy called T & L, which has been designed specifically for horse’s external parasite complaints from ticks and lice. It can be individually feed or trough treated, and is a very popular remedy, especially in the summer months.