Friday, March 27, 2009

Tactics for Tough Ticks

We've lived on this farm for over twenty years. In all of that time I've never seen a tick or heard of one anywhere in our neck of the woods. Western Washington just isn't known as tick country from anything I can tell. At least the kind that bother horses, that is.

That doesn't mean I don't keep my eyes open for the nasty little buggers. Who knows when they might find a way to creep into our lives and mess with our heads a bit while they're dining on our horses.................right??

Eastern Washington on the other hand is tick country. The insects prefer the hot dry climate that side of the Cascade Mountains provides. On the occasion I've taken Arabian horses to that side of the mountains I've paid special attention for sign of the nasty little creatures.

I have to admit in the middle of winter (I realize it is supposed to be spring but it's definitely still acting like winter here) the last think I expected to find on one of my horses was a tick. But guess what, that's exactly what I found on Dandy's shoulder last week.

At first I thought it was fungus. I've certainly been battling that kind of health issue with my Arabian horses for a considerable part of this winter. With the moist, windy, cold temperatures the climate has been particularly kind to the kinds of fungus that plague horses.

This raised up tuft of hair looked just like another lesion of fungus ready to pop exposing the usual gray skin that tells of its existence. Only scrapping at it with my fingernail when the hair flaked off what was exposed was a rounded, red ugly something or other I didn't expect.

Having never actually seen a tick on a horse before I really didn't know for sure so I called for Richard. With one glance he confirmed my suspicion, poor Dandy definitely had a tick embedded in his shoulder and not just any tick, this was one hurken mother, I can tell you.

After some work, Richard extricated the thing from Dandy's flesh. Then we treated the sore and dusted the horse looking carefully for anymore of the nasty buggers.

But that's not the end of this tick story. Yesterday I found two more of the blood sucking creatures. This time on Dandy's head (which Richard tells me in where they usually start their infestation on a horse.). One was right in a crease at the base of Dandy's ear. The other was embedded in his forelock.

I've checked out my others horses. So far not one of them has been found with a tick. I can't even imagine where these ticks could be coming from since they're just not known in this part of the country.

Well, actually, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that hay we received because of flooding damage on our farm? That hay came from eastern Washington and ticks have been known to travel in hay.

That hay is stored right over Dandy's stall. None of the other horses are positioned with the hay overhead like that. If the ticks were in the hay, they could fall right down onto poor Dandy. Since that's my only theory, I'm going to have to figure out how to "treat" this source to get rid of the ticks.

The hay is nearly gone. But even at that, the loft will have to be treated as a precautionary measure. The problem is so many insecticides are now banned finding something to kill these ticks could be a real chore. Any suggestions would certainly be appreciated! In the meantime Dandy seems none the worse for wear although his shoulder is still sore and he's pretty cranky about having that ear touched. Poor Boy!

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  1. Oh joy ticks. I grew up on the prairies of S. ID, we just dealt with them. Plucked them off dogs, cats, chickens, horses and ourselves on a regular basis.

    You could try Diomectrious Earth (sp?), get the food grade, and wear a mask when dusting the hay loft with it. The stuff attacks the exoskeleton on the critters and kills them. Most feed stores carry it. I know alot of people use it in the goat areas to kill the parasites. It works for them.

    Good luck!

  2. Yuck. I hate ticks and have had my share to pull off animals.
    Maybe one of those foggers would help.
    Be sure to check Delilah often.

  3. We get ticks a lot down here. Every summer when it starts to get dry. We can tell if our horses get them because they start to get head shy. The ticks get into the horse's ears. It's bad. We have to get in their ears and pull them out. Our ticks turn a funky blue white color as they get more blood in them. They are really gross. One time we pulled about 5 ticks out of one horses ear. We always keep our eyes open for them in the dry summers. My husband is really good at getting them out.

  4. My vet recommends Frontline Spray.

    It is meant for dogs and cats, but he uses it on his own Arabian horses. I haven't had a tick problem yet, so I personally haven't tried it.

    Diatomaceous earth works wells for treating yards and manure piles. It is natural and the particles are so fine that they can be ingested or walked on by humans and animals without harm, but they cause lesions on the bodies of parasites who then bleed to death. It is a common ingredient in feed through bug/fly repellents.

    Good luck!

  5. Hay's a good bet, especially if it's stored over his stall. Nasty critters. We get them here every spring, and if we ride through the long grass they're especially bad. Blech!

    Unfortunately, not much seems to stop them, either.

  6. Sheesh MiKael, in Africa this was a huge problem for all animals, we had to detick all of our animals, dogs, cats, horses the works every day. I had a jar of poison which I dropped the little devils into and to find 20 or 30 a day on a horse wasn't unusual. They like the ears, sheath, between the back legs, and anus the most. I don't have any solutions to this problem though, it was just part of our routine.

    With Lyme disease being so prolific at the moment, please be careful for yourself and your horses if you do have an infestation.

    I think vaseline around some of these areas may help but not sure. Let us know what you find out.

    Last year I found quite a few ticks on me for the first time in the 8 years I have been here, so I think with this crazy weather everything is out of whack which is why you might be getting them.

    Poor Dandy.

  7. Oh Man, have we ever been battling ticks and lice on the horses for the last few years. Last year was the worst. We are cleaning and treating horses right now. They aren't as bad as they were last year, but still more than a few on almost all of them.

    Last year, we used Poridon and treated every horse. That cleared them right up and by the time they needed to be treated again, they were pretty well shed off and only a few needed a second treatment.

    This year, mom picked up a fly spray that kills ticks and lice and well...pretty much any other bug it comes in contact with.

    We never used to have problems like this with our horses. But there is a strange and as yet unknown illness that is killing off a lot of deer around here and most of them are laden with ticks. Even the cows had to be treated this year because they started to look pretty poor.
    I talked to a couple of the neighbors last spring when we realized what was causing all of the horses to rub like crazy(the ticks and lice) and they all said they are having the same problems with their horses.
    The weird thing is, the herd at the other ranch almost never has a tick on them and I have never found a louse. The places are only 18 miles apart. But we don't have any sick deer at that place either.

    It's all really strange.

  8. Talking about just our part of US, we have had a few mild winters over the past 8 years and it hasn't got cold enough for long enough to kill the parasites. Lots of moisture and mud is a breeding haven for anything, mosquitos and the like, just a theory.

  9. The hay was my first thought too! It's too bad that your "compensation" came with these bloodsuckers. I've also read that diatomaceous earth works well.

  10. Heather already beat me to it - but fipronil (Frontline) will kill ticks like nobody's business...
    Buy a bottle of the spray, keep a pair of cotton gardening gloves in a baggie - spray GLOVES instead of animal directly & it will save $$$ product.
    I've used fipronil on almost every species (mammal, reptile, avian) - it truly doesn't have any toxic effects on vertebrates!

  11. I hope you can get rid of them all. Ticks are disgusting. When I was a kid my pony and I got ticks a lot from riding amongst bushes in the pasture in northern California. I picked up more than the pony though. One night my dad pulled 7 ticks out of my scalp! Horrible.

  12. Oh I do hope you find a way to get rid of those nasty little blighters, where I live we don't get huge numbers each year, but some years are worse than others. I remember, probably 10 years ago now there was a HUGE infestation in the area, they were on the horses, the dogs and all over the cattle. I don't mean to scare you with that (LOL!) but just saying that perhaps this might be a bad season over there?

    You can treat the horses with something that'll stop the ticks from biting into them, but as for treating the stall, I have no idea. =(