Lice – small but powerful enough to modify the hosts’ life. These tiny insects need to feed blood to regenerate and stay alive. These ectoparasites live on animal blood especially household animals besides humans.
When they attack the host (horse) body, they pierce the skin with their sharp mouthparts and suck blood. Lice on horse cause intense itching (pruritus) around the base of the tail, head and mane.
As a result, horses get skin and health problems, which can be diversified from mild to severe diseases.
The bad impact and sufferings on your horse due to lice:
Humans can’t bear the bite of the lice. How can animals do?
Horse-biting lice are different from those lice attack human scalps. One crucial thing, lice spread only the head (scalp) of humans. But they can spread all over the body of the horses. So, the impact and sufferings on the horse certainly higher. Your horses can have these health issues when they get infested with lice:
- Hair loss
- Skin irritation
- Loss of appetite
- Weak body
When your horses get lice infestations, they will act differently than conventional ways. You may seem horses showing least interest to move on, or stand up, run or change in behavior. Lice infestations may cause severe harm to horses’ sensitive skin. Without proper treatment, lice can make your horses’ lives full of suffering. So, the treatment of lice on a horse is a must.
Lice on horses pictures
Bill Clymer, PhD, of Amarillo, Texas says:
Lice occur most often in horses that are stressed, Clymer says, by inadequate nutrition, a severe winter, illness, injury, etc. “For 20-some years I had my own research company, doing research on parasites. I’d buy cheap horses that were in poor condition for various research studies, and they’d be the ones that would get heavy lice infestations. Well-fed, well-groomed horses seldom get lice,” says Clymer. Source-https://thehorse.com/152493/lice-on-horses/
Lice Infestation on Horses:
Pediculosis infection in the horse:
Pediculosis infection is the disease caused by the lice. When your horse gets this infection, you should not wait to suffer the horse anymore. Read below to know more about this infection, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, etc.
Lice are so small on horses that you can see barely with your eyes. They can be 2-4/5 mm on average in their length. You may find difficulties in identifying their presence, especially during the early infestation. They appear in a group spread all the body of the horse. So, the smallest insects become the most active enemy of the horse. Their lifecycle depends on the wastes given off by the skin, body fluids like blood etc. These lice breed or lay eggs mostly in the winter season by hiding in the thick coat of the horse skin. Then they spread from mane to the tail. They use the leg claws to cling to horsehairs or feathers.
To put more importance on the impacts of lice on a horse, Clymer adds that:
“There are two types of lice that affect horses–sucking lice and chewing lice–and three species. All three live throughout the United States. The sucking lice are probably more damaging because they can create anemia due to blood loss (resulting in weakness or stunted growth in young animals), but chewing lice may be more irritating because horses have very sensitive skin,” he says. “The lice crawling around on the host cause great annoyance.” Source-https://thehorse.com/152493/lice-on-horses/
So, what we get from his opinions, there are two common types of lice are responsible for horse’s Pediculosis infection. These two are biting lice and sucking lice.
Let’s discuss on these two lice:
Chewing or biting lice: Damalinia equi (D equi) or biting louse is also known as chewing lice. They don’t infest on human skin. They have higher tendency to attack the birds and some mammals like horses, donkeys etc. They bite on the skin and causes different skin diseases. Generally, they lay eggs on the horse hairs. You may find them on the sides of neck, flanks, and base of the tail.
Sucking lice: Haematopinus asini (H asini) is a more destructive louse which is found at the base of the forelock and mane, nearby the tail base and on the hoof hairs. This louse sucks blood and fluids from the horse’s skin. As horses have sensitivity issues of their skin, sucking lice become a rival to stay calm and have fit skin.
Mallophagan, a suborder of lice has ventral biting mandibles. They feed on different epidermal products such as skin scales and scurf. They have wider head than another suborder prothorax. The blood sucker louse is known as Anopluran.
However, lice eggs or nits are attached to horses’ hairs close to the skin surface. These eggs look like pale, translucent, sub-oval in shape and structure. These lice are smaller in nymphalid stages, become larger when they are adults.
Symptoms and Types:
Pediculosis is a very family skin disease among horses. Different pruritus and dermal irritation are the reasons of this disease. Repetitive scratching, rubbing, and biting on the infested areas of horses’ body are also causes of horse Pediculosis. You may see your horse is having the irregular appearance, uneven coat, low production etc. When the infestation becomes more serious, hair loss, local scarification etc. become visible. The extremity of the outbreak causes the disease named anemia.
These are notable symptoms when lice infest on horses:
Neck hair loss
Shoulder hair loss
Body hair matting
Mane and tail matting
Itchiness on the skin
Horse rubbing against the poles, walls and other things
Horse biting on skin frequently
Serious health downturn
Chances of heavy blood loss
Visible lice on the skin surface
It’s not like horses invite lice to bite the skin and suck the blood. These two are the most probable causes of Pediculosis:
- If you keep your horse nearby another horse having lice-infested
- Using lice-infested tools or equipment for horse-care
There is an increased chance of having lice infestation among the underweight or unhealthy horses. Because these horses have weaker immune systems. If you keep your horses in dirty stables, lice can breed there easily. Generally, the areas we keep our horses remain dump and dirty most of the times. So, a lice infestation is very common to these areas. Lice life cycle is short-lived. The eggs hatch within less than ten days. So, you can’t even notice accurately that your horse is now suffering.
What will you do if you are suspecting that lice infested on your horses?
You don’t need to call a veterinarian immediately to diagnose the lice. But it’s certainly helpful if you stay connected to the veterinarian. You can call him when you want to detect the lice infestation and prevent or eliminate them. Some necessary information about lice infestation may assist you further.
Usually, the presence of lice on the horse’s body is the base of Pediculosis. The hair of the horse remains parted during diagnosis. The veterinarian uses light to check out the skin and proximal portion of the coat if it’s a shady area where you keep your horses. The hair (large horse) on the face, neck, ears, dewlap, escutcheon, base of the tail, topline, tail switch, etc. areas also remain parted. If it’s a smaller horse, then you can see the ova. You know the hair coat is matted, and lice or nymphs are visible in these areas. The interesting thing is you may see the chewing lice moving through the hair and very much active in doing their jobs. Sucking lice are quite slower than the chewing insects. Instead you will see the mouthparts of the sucking lice are pierced in the skin.
Lice and their life cycle:
Female lice are highly reproductive. An adult female louse lays up to 45 eggs. According to Clymer, external temperature and closeness with horse skin define the hatching time. Warm temperature is a friendly condition to hatch eggs faster. It takes two to three weeks to hatch whereas the duration is 30-45 days from egg to be egg-laying adult lice.
Biting lice are mostly infested on the head, mane, tail-base, shoulder, etc. areas. Sucking lice are found on the back, head, neck and thigh of the horses. The lice eggs are very light-colored stuck on the hair. You should look carefully. Otherwise, you may have the misconception that old eggs with broken caps and larvae emerged. The broken or empty eggshells remain attached to the hair.
Nine out of ten biting lice are female reproductive lice. Even they don’t need fertilizing of the male lice to lay fertile eggs. Clymer says, 60% eggs of 40 (assumption) eggs have possibilities to be nine out of ten females. Almost 300000 lice can be there in five generations from just one female louse.
Transmission to other horses
If you keep lice-infested horse closer to another non-infested horse, there will be increased chances to infest on that horse. Even when you use the brushes and other tools for grooming horse to multiple animals, there would be casualties too. You shouldn’t share the brushes to various horses. Lice can stay far from the host for few days, depending on climate. They wait for a new host. Horses having weaker immune system may be the carrier to have lice throughout the year. If you have brought your horse from a show, trailer, or taken to vet and other places, there can be lice infestation and transmission.
Prevention is better than cure
Obviously, you should meet vet or animal doctors to treat the horse lice. But it would be great if you are aware of lice from the very beginning. Give your horses quality feed. Don’t make them feel too much stressed. You should keep the pasture neat and clean. Regular cleaning, brushing and grooming the horses will prevent lice to infest. You can take your horses to bath. It will disturb and disrupt lice.
When you just brought or bought horses, check out if there is any lice infestation. Don’t bring them until you call vet for treating if there’s any lice.
Can humans get horse lice: Horse lice on humans
You have thought you are getting lice infestation on your hair because you have horses or just rode a horse having lice infestation. But you are getting the whole thing wrong. There is no chance of having horse lice on humans. The species that is involved with human hair are different. Only few species attack horses and they are not the same those we may have.
What does horse lice look like?
Lice infest on different types of domestic animals and bird species including horses. Depending on the species, the length can be 1-2 mm or 2-4 mm in average. Swan lice can be of 5-8 mm in length. You can easily identify lice and their eggs (known as nits) with bare eyes. The color of the lice is pale yellow with darker tan of orange color to the brownish head. The shape of lice is dorso-ventrally flat, pancake alike.
Lice too have similar three main body parts like other insects. These three parts are head, thorax and abdomen. They have six legs; three on each side which appear from the mid-part of the thorax (body). Their legs help to grip on host’s fur or feather shafts. Sucking lice have larger legs and gripping claws. Biting lice have smaller legs and claws. The head and mouthparts have specific shape that helps them to feed properly. Sucking lice have small head, long, piercing mouthparts. On the other hand, biting lice have larger head and tooth, grinding mandibular mouthparts. However, both lice species have special facilities like biting lice can bite and sucking lice can suck blood without any hassle.
The lice eggs look like long, white rice. They are 0.5-1mm in length. You can see them glued to the shafts of the fur or feathers. Nymphs are of similar length or a bit smaller or larger (depending on species).
Horse lice pictures:
Best way to get rid of horse lice:
Treatment for horse lice:
There are many lice treatment products available at the market. These products and sprays, dusts, wipe-on etc. You should deworm your horses regularly with macrocyclic lactones. This helps to reduce lice problems. Biting lice feed on skin and dander so they are less affected.
There are concentrated or dry powders to use as spray by mixing them with water. You should not use the solution with a high-pressure sprayer. If it’s winter season, you can use dust instead of using spray. Brushing of insecticide into the hair coat may be a good idea. But the tip of the brush should reach the base of the horsehair. You can call your vet for retreating the horse lice after two weeks of killing nymphs.
If you are using these products, you should follow and maintain the directions to use. Brushes, blankets for saddle etc. should be treated with warm water after using them.
Pyrethrin powder for horses:
Pyrethrin is also known as Pyrethrum. It’s a compound of the Chrysanthemum flower extracts. This flower is a decorative autumn flower. This compound helps plants and animals to fight against insects and pests. Pyrethrin is available in powder form. However, you will find many horses lice shampoo containing this ingredient.
Pyrethrin powder is entirely safe for horse. It has the power to build body, luster and groom ability to horse coat. It can kill lice through affecting their nervous system with deadly toxic effects. When the lice come in contact with Pyrethrin powder, they die almost immediately. Pyrethrin powder is good to secure the tail, mane, neck and all-over the body of the horse.
Pour-on lice treatment for horses:
Pour on lice treatment are more effective in killing lice and nits. Generally, Permethrins and shampoos are considered as pour on lice treatment.
Permethrins doesn’t require a specific system to control the lice infestation on horses. Experts recommend to use 4% Permethrins solution when you want to protect your horse. Cattle owners use 1% solution to control the lice. Even 0.1% Permethrin solution can reduce the number of lice and potential for skin reactions. You should apply this pour on medicine on the back and beneath the face. Apply two times with 14 days apart to see the better result.
These are some popular lice control products having different percentages of Permethrin:
- Coopers Delice Pour-on – 1%
- Disvap Equine – 0.1%
- Nix – 1%
- Siecon – 0.5%
- Vetolice – 1%
You can dilute these concentrated Permethrin to make 0.1% solution. Remember, some of these lice control products contain oil-based carrier. This may make the place dirty if the place is dry and sandy.
Shampoos are also expert choice to reduce the lice infestation. Some specific shampoos such as Seleen shampoo, Sanofi Animal Health etc. are proven successful to treat the insects. If your animal has Seborrhea, you can use Seleen shampoo undoubtedly. It contains 1% Selenum Sulphide having antiparasitic action. According to Patterson, applying Seleen shampoo thrice a day with ten days interval shows the most effective result. You should use these amounts of shampoos:
- 150ml for pony,
- 300 ml for up to 500 Kg weight
- 450 ml for more than 500 kg weight
The first thing you should care that you should choose the treatment method according to circumstances. Weather, the quantity of infestation, number of horses, etc. matter when you choose the treatment.
How do you apply lice powder to horses?
When you want to apply louse powder to kill the lice, you should choose a quality product. Lice powder is good for removing those nasty insects. Apply the powder using a brush while you wear hand gloves and eye protection. You should be careful to some horses that have sensitive skin and irritation problems.
Horse shampoo for lice: horse lice shampoo
Horse shampoo is the most popular method to get rid of lice. Here are the steps to use horse shampoo for lice:
- Keep a bucket filled with water near the horse. Don’t keep it near the hind legs if you don’t want your horse to kick it.
- Mix the shampoo with the water pre-filled in the bucket. Then pour the mixture in a large spray bottle.
- Spray the shampoo mixture all-over the body of the animal. Be careful not to spray on eyes, ears and nose of the horse. Spray on the horse mane, tail, back correctly.
- Now, wash the horse off to remove the shampoo mixture. You can use soft sponge soaked in clean water to do so. Apply warm water if the temperature is lower. You can choose garden hose spraying with cool water if it’s summer.
- Bring a dry and clean towel. Dry the horse with that towel. Then, use brushes or combs to untangle the hair all-over the body.
- Sprinkle some insect killers on the surface of the pasture. You should also sprinkle non-toxic Sevin dust. This may wipe of the lice residues.
Apple cider vinegar for horse lice:
Apple cider vinegar is an affordable and natural way to care your horses. This is entirely safe for your favorite animal.
These are the benefits of apple cider vinegar:
- Controlling insects (lice etc.) naturally
- Digestion improvement
- Prevents intestinal stones
- Mane & tail conditioner
- Disguise water while traveling
- Wound treatment
- Treat hoof problems
- Saddle blankets & pads cleaning
How to apply
Dilute apple cider vinegar in water with 1:1 ratio. Then let the horse feed on the mixture. Experts suggest to give quart or half cup of apple cider vinegar daily.
Horse mites are arthropods having eight legs. These parasites bite into horse’s skin. The result isn’t satisfying. Horses can stay silent cause there remains intense itching. This condition is known as Mange. It can be zoonotic which can transmit to humans. From young to adult horses, can be affected by horse mites.
What is flea in horses?
Most of the cases, horses don’t get fleas. If you are keeping your horses in dirty place, then there can be fleas. Underweight, sick, old horses may get fleas. Flea isn’t any severe problem in horse care. But they can contaminate the feed you give to your horse. Proper care and maintenance keep flea away from the horse.
Horse lice treatment products:
Usually, lice shampoo, dust, and sprays are natural products to treat the horse lice. These products come with their specific specialties. You should choose the product which is safe, natural and 100% organic and friendly to your horse. Let’s see some recommended lice on horse treatment products:
Bonide Products Fly, Lice & Tick Control Dust-On
This 4lbs dust from Bonide is good to keep the flea, tick, flies, mites, etc. further. You can keep them away for up to 4 weeks with just one application. It contains 0.25% Permethrin. This product is also made to apply on cattle, poultry, dogs, etc.
Protected Equine SOA-Itch Be Gone
Protected Equine SOA helps you to immediately stop the horse itches and irritation. This soap has deep penetration power. When you wash your horse with this soap, there won’t be any Pruritus and rubbing cycle. After the application, this soap leaves smooth, soft skin. You can apply it to draw and dry affected skin areas.
KG Pet Spray – 16 oz Ready to Use Formula
This is another good product to treat horse lice. This shampoo contains all-natural, biodegradable and hypoallergenic formula which is entirely safe for the horses. Apply this shampoo to stop inviting the fleas, mange, ticks, mites etc. Different helpful enzymes are the ingredients of this shampoo. So, your horse will surely love to get treatment with this shampoo.
Horse is that animal that can’t speak like humans. But they can be better friends than humans. We use the horses to travel, to transfer or load things, to get amusement, to win races. So, how could we leave them affected by the lice?
We should be aware of the horse’s health to increase their beauty, efficiency, and liveliness. In this long content, you have all the basic ideas about lice on horses and how to treat lice on a horse. Hopefully, the information will assist you in pursuit of your happiness.
Frequently asked questions:
Question: How do you treat lice on horses?
Answer: Regular cleaning, grooming, quality food, a neat and clean environment can also keep the lice out of the area. You should use sterilized equipment to groom the horse. Don’t let horse suffer when you see the symptoms of horse lice. You can use lice infestation control products. You can also get help from the vet.
Question: Can horse lice transfer to humans?
Answer: No, it’s not possible. Because the lice humans get are different species from the lice that attack horses. The lifestyle, feeding style is also different.
Question: What kills lice on surfaces?
Answer: You can use shampoo or spray to kill the lice on the surface of the horse’s skin. Dust can also be a good idea. Use the shampoo containing Permethrin or Pyrethrin. These are natural and friendly to the horse’s health.
Question: Can lice make a horse lose weight?
Answer: Sucking lice feeds directly on horse blood. When they suck blood, the affected horse can have anemia due to blood loss. As a result, there will be different side effects, including weight loss. So, you can think that if your horse is losing weight, then there is probably the presence of horse lice.
Question: Will dish soap kill lice?
Answer: Dish soap doesn’t have any ingredient that can kill the lice. So, there is no result if you wash horses with dish soap.
Question: How do you know if a horse has lice?
Answer: When these things appear:
- Luster losses to horse-coat
- Neck hair loss
- Shoulder hair loss
- Body hair matting
- Mane and tail matting
- Itchiness on the skin
- Horse rubbing against the poles, walls and other things
- Horse biting on skin frequently
- Serious health downturn
- Chances of heavy blood loss
- Visible lice on the skin surface
Question: Why is my horse rubbing his hair off?
Answer: Probably the biting lice are biting on the skin of your horse. Biting lice create extreme itchiness so that your horse can’t bear. He thinks, rubbing his hair can give him peace.
Question: Does ivermectin kill lice on horses?
Answer: Ivermectin works when you inject it to your horse. But it works only on blood-sucking lice. It hasn’t any efficiency to kill the biting or chewing lice. You can deworm your horse with a paste ivermectin wormer. However, you should ask your vet if you wish to use this medicine.
Question: How do horses get horse lice?
Answer: There is an increased chance of having lice infestation among underweight or unhealthy horses. Because these horses have a weaker immune system, if you keep your horses in dirty stables, lice can breed there easily. Generally, the areas we keep our horses remain dump and dusty most of the time. So, lice infestation is widespread in these areas.
Question: Can chicken lice live on horses?
Answer: No, there’s no chance of having chicken lice found on the body of the horse. Lice are always hosted individually. Human lice, birds’ lice, animals’ lice – all these are of different species. Their lifestyle, feeding, appearance, etc. are also different from each other.
- Knight P., personal communication, Pfizer Animal Health
- Svendsen E. D., The Professional Handbook of the Donkey, 3rd Edition, Whittet Books
- Heal J., personal communication, Environmental Biology, University of Guelph
- Paterson S., Orrel S., Treatment of Biting Lice in Horses Using Selenium Sulphide, Eq. Vet. Educ. 1995; 11:11-28.
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