Ticks are tiny bloodsucking parasites of mammals including horses, humans, dogs and cats. They are part of the taxonomy group called Acarina, together with spiders, mites and scorpions and are prevalent at this time of year, while the weather is warm and the grass is long.
Not only are they an annoyance, but they can cause localized skin irritation and infection, as well as transmit a variety of potentially serious diseases (such as Lyme Disease) through their saliva, making their prevention and removal from your horse essential.
How can I prevent ticks from attaching to my horse?
Check your horse daily for ticks and if found, remove promptly. Applications of tick repellant (available from your tack shop or veterinarian) before riding and ahead of turnout can help and should be applied to these key areas: Mane, head, tail, chest, abdomen, legs and ‘armpits’. Don’t be fooled that ticks will only be found on the areas of your horse’s skin that touch the grass, despite not flying, ticks will often crawl to areas where the skin is thinnest.
Ticks are often easier to feel than see given their size, so try running your hands over your horse and feeling for any lumps and bumps, but be careful not to dislodge or damage the tick in doing so.
What do I do if I find a tick on my horse?
Always be careful when removing ticks. Don’t use any chemicals, or be tempted to burn or freeze them off as this can cause the tick to produce more saliva, and therefore increase the risk of disease transmission to your horse. Instead, use a tick remover or ‘tick fork’ (cheap and available from your local tack or pet shop). Part your horse's hair and place the tool near the embedded base of the tick and close to your horse's skin. A tick attaches itself by screwing barbed mouthparts into the skin, making it important that the tick is removed using an un-screwing technique. This will ensure it is removed whole, as leaving the head inside can risk further infection and irritation.
Once removed, the affected area should be cleaned with an antiseptic wash or salt water and the tick disposed of correctly. Do not release or drop the tick as it will soon find it’s way back onto your horse. Do not squeeze or crush it, as this can further expose you to diseases. Ticks should be safely disposed of by trapping in an airtight container, wrapping in tape or by placing in alcohol. Gloves should always be worn when removing ticks.
Remember: If you are concerned that the teeth of the tick have remained inside the horse or any inflammation or sign of infection occurs, do not hesitate to contact us on 01323 815120.