Horse Lice Infestation in the Winter Months
 By Winniefield Park   •   1st Feb 2015   •   3,059 views   •   0 comments
Horse Lice Infestation in the Winter Months

There are a few skin problems that horse owners deal with more commonly in the winter months than in summer. One of the more disturbing problems is lice. Call it lousiness, lice, louse infestation, Haematopinus Asin or Amalinia Equi, these little chewing and blood sucking creepy crawlies are high on Ďick factorí.

We might associate lice infestation of any critter, four or two legged, with poor living conditions, but this isnít always the case. If youíve been Ďluckyí enough to pick up head lice in school, youíll know that they prefer clean hair. And, they didnít check the contents of your parentís wallet before hitching a ride on your head. Itís the same with horses. Itís not unusual for the six figure track stars living in the backrow to pick up lice. What lice like is a warm place to live, and an easy way to hitch a ride. Crowded stables, and shared grooming and riding equipment provide the perfect environment and transportation system, with lots of warm bodies and new opportunities in close proximity.

Related: Equine Rain Rot Cures

The difference between the high price horse that gets lice, and its poor kinfolk, is that someone notices and treats any infestation, before it can affect the better cared for horseís condition.

While lice might be democratic about the horses they infest, you don't need to worry that your horseís lice will take up residence on your head, or visa versa. Lice tend to be species specific. Which is why itís perfectly okay to gross out your city visitors by shaking chicken lice at them. (Be sure to treat the poor chicken right after.) Donít shake chicken lice on your horse though. They are the exception to the rule.

Chances are, no matter who or what you find lice on, youíll want to get rid of the infestation asap. Hereís why. Lice, depending on the variety, can lay between 200 and 300 nits a day. Depending on the type of lice your horse has, the fast growing population will snack on shed skin cells on the surface of your horseís skin, or suck blood. The eggs, called nits, are attached on the horseís mane or tail, or in the horseís coat. The nits hatch, and out come nymphs, who in turn grow into blood sucking or skin cell eating adults. The saliva from the lice causes the allergic reaction that causes itchiness. Lice excrement may also cause itching. A bad infestation of lice can cause a horse to become anemic through blood loss. Itchy areas can lose hair and become angrily inflamed and infected.

Some horses seem to be more prone to lice than others. Sometimes only one horse out of a herd will have lice in any number. This is why itís important to check under those blankets frequently in winter. Even if the horse doesnít appear to be itchy, it may show colic-like symptoms, or become run down, and the cause is a bad infestation of lice.

Prevent lice by not sharing equipment between horses and keep them in bright sunlight as much as possible. Brush as often as possible to remove dander. Keep a new horse separate from others until youíre sure itís perfectly healthy. Treat the horse with permethrin based dust, shampoo or rinse. Clipping can help remove the hair lice like to hide in. Be careful about applying medication over already inflamed or infected skin. If chicken lice are the problem, sulfur based products can be helpful, as can keeping chickens and horses in separate quarters. Itchy yet?
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