I have discussed the deadly effects of paralysis ticks on dogs and what to do when a dog has a tick, so let see how these dangerous ticks can affect horses.
An adult horse carrying only one tick is unlikely to dye from the bite due to his size but will certainly show signs of paralysis. Young horses may be at risk of succumbing to the toxins though.
- The most common sign is lameness, especially if the tick is located on or near a limb. The horse may drag his leg.
- Respiratory difficulty: breathing may be heavy and slow
- Choking: as the toxins of the tick are released in the body and the muscles start to malfunction, the horse may look as if he is choking. Horses cannot vomit like a dog so it looks like he is choking instead. he might have some saliva and foam at the mouth.
- Staggering gait: the horse may walk strangely and vacillates
- Sweating: the horse might start to sweat heavily
- Swollen body parts: the tick bite area may be swollen and red
- General distress: the horse may look distressed, have dilated pupils and may even lay down.
What to do
The first thing to do is to call a vet and explain the symptoms. The vet may suspect a tick bite or maybe something else. Discuss with your vet what you need to do until he/she arrives.
Then start looking for one or more ticks.
On horses, the areas that are common for ticks are:
- the lips, nose and mouth since horses graze, their head is a good climbing spot for ticks
- eyes, ears, pole
- between teats
- base of tail
If you find one tick, keep looking for more. Check the entire body thoroughly as there is no science that can confirm ticks only bite the areas listed above.
If your vet confirmed that you can remove the ticks, then do so as explained in the tick removal section of the article about paralysis ticks and dogs.
Once removed, clean and disinfect the bite areas with iodine or essential oils. Apply some healing ointment or cream.
Tick prevention for horses
When horses live in a paddock, it is hard, even impossible to stop ticks from biting them. As explained in the dog articles, ticks like long grass, moisture and darkness. They stay on leaves and branches until a host walks by.
Wildlife such as kangaroos, koalas and bandicoots are ideal hosts for ticks and are quite often seen with a multitude of ticks on them. However, this means they also bring the ticks with them when they visit your paddock. Other animals that may carry ticks are cattle, goats, sheep and alpacas, so be mindful of this if your horses share a paddock with them.
You could slash the paddock to keep the grass down and trim overhanging branches. This is of course only possible on small size paddocks.
Sometimes there is infestation, especially after much rain and high temperatures. In such event, it would be wise to relocated your horses in a less infested area. If you have access to smaller yards or stables, then it could be the answer, until the ticks have moved on or have gone into hibernation.
Rugging your horses wont help much as the ticks climb through the body parts that are in contact with grass, such as their legs and nose.
If you live in areas prone to ticks such as the South East corner of Queensland, make it a routine to inspect your horses daily for ticks and remove ticks when found.