Lice are a problem that faces humans, cattle, goats, dogs, and horses, among many other species. Unfortunately, lice treatments vary slightly with each species, and even the multiple subspecies of lice for a given animal can cause variations in the treatment. Happily, the treatments aren't difficult, and there are enough options that you can treat a lice infestation at any time of the year.
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It's important to treat for the right problem. You can spend weeks treating a horse for lice when the real problem is ringworm or pinworms. There are two kinds of equine lice: Blood-sucking lice and chewing lice. Blood-sucking lice are found along the back line, neck, head and flanks, under the forelock/mane and around the fetlocks. Chewing lice are found along the top and sides of the horse. Common symptoms of lice include greyish lice eggs under the forelock and/or mane or rubbing/thinning of hair on the face and neck. Severe cases can lead to self-mutilation as the horse searches for relief.
A quick shot of ivermectin or moxidectin can eliminate bloodsucking lice as they ingest the de-wormer through the horses blood. This will not effect chewing lice so it is important to determine where the lice are, and subsequently what kind of lice you are dealing with.
Because lice are host-specific, you should avoid using external treatments that have not been approved for horses. The two most popular forms of external treatment are: Dusts--sprinkle over the entire horse and brush the dust all the way down to the skin for effect. Pyrethrine laced shampoos and conditioners--apply like normal shampoo and conditioner, working down to the skin of the animal. Horses should be re-treated in approximately two weeks to kill any newly hatched young lice.
A few steps can avoid an outbreak of lice on your facilities: Brush horses frequently--long winter coats are ideal for lice. Do not share blankets, grooming gear, or pastures/paddocks between clean and infested animals. Check horses carefully before introducing them to a herd.
Once you've dealt with lice, it's important that the equipment is lice-free before being used again. There are a few alternate steps you can take to eliminate lice and eggs from equipment before using it again: Boil metal/hard equipment in water. Throw soft equipment (blankets, pads, halters) in the dryer on the highest setting. Lay it out on fence for a week at minimum. Don't use it for two weeks (they can't survive for long without a horse) Repeat your step in 7 to 10 days to kill all newly hatched lice. Leave pastures dormant for at least two weeks to kill all eggs and lice along the fences or trees. Everything should be treated at the same time.
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