How to Get Rid of Ticks on Horses

Ticks can affect any horse at any time. They are pests that are frightening to horse owners because they are virtually impossible to see until they gorge themselves. You find these green “eggs” on the horse, but then struggle to remove them because the jaws of the tick are so powerful that they just stay stuck to the animal.

Knowing how to get rid of ticks is critical information for every horse owner. This is because ticks are known to transmit life-threatening diseases to your horse. Ticks can also transmit bacteria to humans to make them sick as well. That’s why you’ll want to safely remove them as soon as they are found.

5 Steps for Effective Tick Removal

If you find a tick on your horse, then it should be removed immediately. The goal of removal should be to prevent the tick from being able to “backwash” blood back into the horse. When this happens, there is an increased risk of disease transmission.

This means you should never try to crush the tick. Do not attempt to twist it out either. Oils and petroleum jelly should never be used. Burning the tick off is also a bad idea. The goal is to get the entire tick off of the horse. These methods tend to cause the head of the tick to stay buried beneath the skin.

For proper tick removal, you’ll need to find yourself a sturdy set of tweezers. Then you’ll want to follow these 5 steps.

#1. Grab the tick with the tweezers firmly by the head. You’ll need to grab at the point where the tick head is entering the skin.

#2. Gently pull the tick straight away from the skin. You’ll need to keep the pulling pressure steady, but also firm. Do not yank at the tick. This will often cause the tick’s head to separate.

#3. Place the removed tick in a small jar or bowl of rubbing alcohol. This will ensure that the disease transmission threat is removed.

#4. Place a mild antiseptic at the bite location and then thoroughly wash the attachment site.

#5. Make sure you wash your hands after you’ve finished the job. In high-risk areas of bacterial infections, you may wish to wear gloves and other personal protective equipment in case there is a blood exposure event.

Some ticks have been known to survive hot fires. Crushing them while they are still flat is virtually impossible to do because of their size. That’s why placing the tick into rubbing alcohol is your best solution. Even releasing engorged ticks back into the wild will usually mean that you’ll have to repeat the removal process at a later date.

Identifying the Ticks You Have Found

The process of removing a tick is virtually the same, no matter what species of tick you may have found. Most ticks will cause irritation or restlessness with a horse. Being able to identify the tick can help you make plans to treat your horse should it have received a disease from the bite. Here’s what you need to know about the ticks which could be in your area.

  • Brown Dog Ticks. These ticks are the only truly global threat to horses. They are uniformly brown and about 50% of the size of a “normal” tick. They can transmit Ehrlichiosis.
  • American Dog Ticks. These ticks have gray markings behind their head, with the rest of their body a brown color. They are predominantly found in the Pacific Northwest and East Coast of the US. They can cause Spotted Fever and Tularemia. 
  • Deer Ticks. These ticks are shaped like a tear-drop. They look like a poppy seed on the skin of the horse.  They are found throughout the US, with a predominance along the East Coast, and their main threat is Lyme Disease.
  • Gulf Coast Ticks. These oval ticks have striped legs with a white collar or white striations along their body. They are found throughout the Gulf Coast region in the US, Mexico, and the Caribbean, with some spreading to Oklahoma and Kansas. They can cause Heartwater.
  • Lone Star Ticks. Found in the SE United States, as well as some south-central areas, these rounded ticks have white spots on their back, with males having white streaks. They can also cause Lyme Disease.
  • Pacific Coast Ticks. These ticks are isolated to communities near the Pacific Ocean. They are light brown with a spotted white collar and cause CO Tick Fever and Tick Paralysis.
  • Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks. These tear-shaped black ticks have varying silver/brown patterns along their collar. They’re only found in the Western US and are known to cause Rickettsia.
  • Spinose Ear Ticks. These ticks are shaped like a peanut and their bodies are covered with small spines. They live in the Western US, but do not carry a disease threat. Horses with these ticks may have increased restlessness and suffer from hair loss due to rubbing issues.
  • Tropical Horse Ticks. Found in the southern US, these ticks black and can transmit Piroplasmosis.
  • Western Deer Ticks [Black Legged Ticks]. These ticks are dark brown with a darker collar and are Lyme Disease carriers. They are larger than the “standard” deer tick.
  • Winter Ticks. These oblong ticks are completely brown and are found throughout the US. They cause anemia in horses.

Just finding one tick on a horse is generally not a cause for concern. Just take safety precautions and remove the tick as quickly as possible. A horse with several ticks, however, may suffer from blood loss that can lead to anemia. By recognizing the type of tick you have, you’ll also be able to work with your veterinarian to prepare a treatment plan for a potentially transmitted disease to the horse.

How to Emphasize Tick Control on Your Property

Ticks are attracted to the warmth of blood. It doesn’t matter if you’re a horse, a cat, or a human. They are not attracted to one particular species. This means that the ticks which bite your horses are also going to want to bite you. 

If your horse has ticks that need to be removed, then you and your family are also exposed to the risks of a bite. Finding one tick can happen to anyone. Needing to remove several ticks indicates the neem to implement an effective control program.

The best places to begin controlling ticks is around your horse barn, in your pasture, and in areas near to your home. There are several repellents that are specifically designed to limit contact with ticks, so choose a suitable option for your specific needs and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as accurately as possible.

Grooming can also be part of your tick control routine. Use a repellent on the horse during the grooming process that will prevent ticks from wanting to bite in the first place. During the warmer months of the year, you may need to repeat the grooming and prevention routine on a daily basis.

Carefully check yourself and your horses every day for ticks. Even with careful checks, it can be difficult to spot some of the ticks. It may be easier to see the symptoms of a tick bite than find the tick itself. If a horse is rubbing on its stall or fence posts with greater regularity than normal, then there is a good chance that it has at least one tick bite.

Immediately examine the skin of the horse. If you see a tick, then follow the 5-step process to remove it safely. You may see a red welt on the horse that is up to 1-inch in diameter. This is an indication that a tick did bite the horse, but dropped off.

Are You Ready to Get Rid of Ticks on Horses?

There are natural repellents, such as garlic or tea tree oil, that can help to stop tick bites from occurring. Insecticides and chemical repellents can also be used safely to prevent tick issues. Yet no one particular method is going to be 100% effective. That’s why you need to know how to get rid of ticks on horses.

You will find ticks within the ear of the horse sometimes. Ticks have been known to attach themselves to eyelids and other sensitive areas. The 5-step removal process works wherever the tick may have attached itself.

Never attempt to remove a tick from a horse with your bare hands. This will increase your personal risk of disease exposure.

If a horse has been bitten by several ticks, then it is recommended that you immediately contact your veterinarian to deal with the tick removal. Large tick infestations can potentially damage the skin of the horse, lead to blood loss, and other potentially dangerous complications.

Then do your best to keep the horse away from areas of your property that may be prone to ticks. Control tall grass, maintain the borders of your pasture, and limit areas where overhead foliage may exist. With adequate prevention and the ability to remove ticks quickly, you’ll be able to have a horse that is happy and healthy all year long.