The Problem With Lice

Appearance: hair loss from rubbing, usually appearing first on the shoulders and neck, as well as on the head and the base of the mane and tail. Affected areas are intensely itchy and may also have abrasions and scabs from rubbing and possibly secondary infections. Flattened insects up to two to four millimeters long may be visible if the hair is parted and the skin examined in good light. Pale, translucent eggs may be attached to nearby hairs. The horse is also likely to be generally unthrifty and in poor health. Lice infestations tend to be more severe during the winter months but can occur at any time of year.

Causes: Two types of these parasitic insects infect horses: Chewing lice (Damalinia equi) feed on sloughed-off dead skin cells; these are more likely to affect the neck, flanks and the base of the tail. Biting or sucking lice (Haematopinus asini) feed on blood; this species prefers longer hair and may be found under the forelock and mane, the tail and on the pasterns of long-feathered horses. Both types cause skin irritation and itching.

Do I need to treat it? Yes. Not only is a lice infestation extremely uncomfortable for the horse, severe cases can cause anemia.

Protocol: Several types of products---permeation sprays and wipes, insecticidal powders and shampoos are effective against lice. Read and follow label instructions and precautions carefully. Many treatments need to thoroughly coat the skin to be effective, but some products may irritate small cuts and abrasions.

Prevention: Lice can be passed directly from horse to horse, as well as via shared tools and equipment. Isolate affected horses as well as those who have been exposed to them.

Louse eggs that detach from the horse's coat can hatch and re-introduce the infestation, so it is important to clean and sterilize any tack and equipment that was used on the affected horse. Clean brushes and small tools with an insecticide, or boil items that will not be damaged by heat. Pads and blankets can be sterilized by machine washing and drying at a high heat setting. Also spray or scrub down stall walls or paddock fences and change the bedding.

Any Thoughts or Comments?....

Until Next Time...."Ride for the Brand"


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