External Parasites of Horses

Horses are beautiful and gentle animals. They are big and strong, but can also be very delicate. They have a complicatedly sensitive digestive system that is often invaded by external parasites which we must look out for to keep our horse healthy and safe.

One external parasite on horses would be bot flies. These horse parasites use the animal to hatch their larvae. The bot fly deposits its eggs onto an area the horse is likely to lick while self grooming, such as the legs, and when the horse licks itself, this causes the parasite to hatch into larvae. When the larvae hatch and the horse licks the parasite again, these larvae are introduced to the inside of the horses’ mouth, and down into their digestive tract, where they stay for 9 month until excreted in manure as adult botflies.

These parasites of horses can wreak havoc on the digestive efficiency of the horse. The balance in their digestive tracts is visceral and can be thrown off by bot fly infestation. It is very important to check your horse regularly for this parasite and remove it, as well as give your horse an anti-parasite medication.

Another common external horse parasite are ticks. These bite and suck the blood of the host horse, and spread diseases such as sleeping sickness and Lyme disease. They do not grow or breed directly on the horse, but jump from horse to horse, causing outbreaks of diseases within stables.

Common horse parasites include many sorts of flies. These include the black fly, deer fly and the horn fly which produce painful bites to the horse as well as a nuisance, and more seriously, contribute to the spread of Equine Infectious Anemia. Other flies produce specific conditions, such as the face fly, which stick to the horses’ eyes and produce irritation and infection. Ingesting of the flies can also cause digestive problems again due to the delicate balance horses need to preserve internally.

Lice are another external parasite found on the horse. A lice infestation can prove to be quite serious. On a young horse, this parasite can cause stunted growth. Also attributed to lice parasites is weight loss in the horse as well as anemia and extreme scratching, which results in rubbing off of the fur. The horses’ itch can become so severe and the urge to scratch so strong that it results in skin leisure.

Mange is another horse parasite which causes skin irritations that can lead to severe dermatitis. A way to control this is through adequate and healthy nutrition. Mange lives on the horses’ skin, and is undetectable to the human eye. Another horse skin parasite is ringworm, which cause circular patches of hair loss and itchy flaky skin. This fungus can be controlled by keeping your horses’ living quarters dry and clean with fresh bedding.

Most of these painful horse parasites can be avoided if the shelter is appropriate and clean. All these horse parasites breed in dirty, wet conditions, so make sure measures are taken to keep the water sources clean and drained in case of rain.


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