Blood Sucking Lice

Horses, ponies, and other equids may be infested with two species of louse, the horse biting or chewing louse, Bovicola equi and the blood sucking louse, Haematopinus asini. The genus Haematopinus contains 21 species of blood-sucking lice, parasitizing both even-toed ungulates (pigs, cattle, buffalo, antelopes, camels and deer) and odd-toed ungulates (horses, donkeys and zebras). Haematopinus species transmit several severe infectious diseases such as African swine fever, swinepox, hog cholera, eperythrozoonosis and anaplasmosis. Sucking lice feed off blood and are more irritating and more common than chewing lice.

Blood sucking lice have piercing mouth parts. When present in large numbers they may cause anemia. In foals, heavy infestations cause loss of appetite and vitality as well as increase susceptibility to diseases. Horse lice may cause temporary itchiness on the skin of humans.

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Louse ifestations are particularly common in the winter months. They cause severe itching around the base of the tail, the head, and the mane. Severe itching is associated with hair breakage and loss, so the body may develop a motheaten appearance. The skin may become thickened. Close inspection by parting the hair and examining with hand lens reveals the sationary or slow-moving parasites, which are gray-yellow in color. Nits may be seen too. Because lice do not leave the host, treatment of the horse with an insecticide is necessary. Organophosphates, carbamates (carbaryl), but also pyrethrins and pyrethroids are effective against lice. Successful control requires that the equipment is cleaned thoroughly with the same insecticide as used on the horse. Frequent grooming helps to reduce the parasite numbers. Contact horses should be treated too.

More about blood sucking lice:

  1. Variation in mitochondrial minichromosome composition between blood-sucking lice of the genus Haematopinus that infest horses and pigs
  2. Lice on horses. R Wright
  3. Pediculosis in Two Research Ponies (Equus caballus)
  4. Parasitic Infections of Domestic Animals: A Diagnostic Manual. Johannes Kaufmann
  5. Veterinary Notes For Horse Owners. Captain M. Horace Hayes

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