Two types of lice feed off horses. Both kinds are dangerous to a horse's well being. Trainers and owners should be on the lookout for signs and symptoms that their horses are struggling with a lice infestation. If the lice infestation is treated immediately, it will prevent damage done both by the lice and by the horse himself in response to the lice. Proper grooming and treatment procedures can stop the infestation once it has occurred and can prevent it from happening again.
Types of Lice
Horses require regular grooming to be in good shape and to keep their coats and manes free of pests. A horse infested with lice will not look well-groomed; her fur will become matted and loose as she bites and scratches herself to stop lice from biting and sucking. Horses can be infected with two types of lice, the blood-sucking louse and the biting louse. The sucking louse feeds on the horse's blood, while the biting louse feeds on her skin. Both can cause severe damage to the horse's skin.
Sucking Lice Symptoms
The grey sucking louse is about 1/8 of an inch long. More common on horses than chewing lice, sucking lice are usually present on the forelock, mane, tail, and fetlocks. During heavy infestations, lice live on the animal's entire body. When this occurs, the horse may suffer from anaemia, which is a condition that affects blood flow and oxygen in the body. Red blood cells and haemoglobin levels decrease, causing a lack of oxygen.
Chewing Lice Symptoms
The brown chewing louse is about 1/10 of an inch long. These lice chew on skin debris: hair, blood, scales, and live and dead skin. They are commonly found on the backline, neck, head, and flanks. The lice leave red welts where they have been biting, and their presence can result in hair loss because the horse will go to great lengths to scratch the itching the lice cause. Sometimes horses will tear their own skin in an effort to rid themselves of the lice.