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According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, there are two main types of lice that can attack horses. One type sucks the horse's blood as a food source. The other chews on the horse's skin and eats cells that it manages to slough off. Both types of lice cause severe itching that can drive the horse to rub its face, mane and tail base raw.
Signs that a horse has lice include bald patches on the tail and around the face and mane, which indicate that the animal is scratching. A coat that appears scraggly and unkempt. In severe cases, the horse might have open wounds due to severe bouts of rubbing and scratching. Because some lice are blood suckers, affected horses can also develop anaemia if the problem goes undetected for a long period.
When a horse gets lice, it is typically treated with either a powder or a shampoo that is specifically approved for killing lice on equines. When a powder is used, it must be applied to the entire animal and it has to get all the way down into the coat until it reaches the skin. Shampoos generally have to be used over the course of several days to make sure that the lice infestation is completely gone.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture says that lice infestations are not common on horses and don't usually cross between different species. However, there is one species of biting louse that lives on poultry but has the ability to attack horses if they are housed nearby. For this reason, horses and chickens or other poultry should not be kept too closely together.
The Horse magazine says that horses are also more prone to lice infestations when they are under stress. If a horse is well nourished and groomed regularly, it is not likely to get a lice infestation.
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