The rain has created a major cause-and-effect with our local insect population. The flies are bad. The gnats are bad. The mosquitoes are bad. And, my least favorite of all blood-sucking insects, the TICKS, ARE BAD.
What I’ve noticed, though, is that not all horses seem to be as vulnerable as others to ticks. I can have one horse in the barn who is struggling with ticks, and then another who has never even had to have one pulled off.
So, I’ve been wondering why this is, and I’ve come up with a few hypotheses. Tell me what you think.
- Breed of the horse. I’ve always noticed that thoroughbreds have thinner, more sensitive skin. Perhaps this has something to do with it?
- Location of the horse. We have several horses on pasture, but one pasture has a pond, one has trees, and one is completely flat with little natural shelter. I’ve heard that ticks drop from trees. Is that true? Are there more ticks around the pond water?
- Amount of hair. The few horses in my barn who get ticks in their ears seem to have sparse hair in and around their ears. Maybe with less hair protection, the ticks abound?
Obviously, I don’t know if any of those are true, they’re just things I’ve noticed and pondered.
I have one full boarder, in particular, who was struggling with ticks in his ears when he first arrived at the beginning of May. His owner said there were only a couple small ticks, but they made his ears very painful nonetheless. After the ticks were pulled, a crusty yellowish yuck was left behind along with a scab.
Notice how his right ear has more hair, but less crustiness. Interesting.
I started by feeling around in his ears to double-check that they were, in fact, tick-free. He didn’t like this, but it was doable. I’ve had some tick-sensitive horses who were so painful they would prefer to knock me into the stall wall than let me touch their ears. Thankfully, this guy was a gentleman and trusted that I wasn’t trying to harm him.
Then, I removed all the crust and loose scabs and applied Swat, a medicated, fly-resistant (and hopefully tick) ointment. I did have to be careful because Swat melts in the heat, so it just needed a thin layer so it didn’t drip down inside his ear. I had consulted a vet friend about treating ticks in ears, and she recommended mineral oil. I chose not to use mineral oil, though, because I felt like the Swat would help prevent more insects from getting inside his ears.
It’s been a few weeks, and his ears are now tick-free, all the crust is gone, and the little wounds left behind are healing.
His owner did leave a fly mask with me, but alas, it is not one with ears. That’s okay, though, I’m just keeping a close eye on his ears and watching for any discomfort.
The cleaning and Swat ointment worked for this guy, but I’m wondering what other people do for tick treatment? Have you had a problem with ticks so far this summer? Why do you think some horses are more vulnerable than others?