Can Horses Get Fleas?

One of the dangers of fleas is that they can make animals anemic. If you own a horse, you may wonder if it’s vulnerable to fleas.

Horses can get fleas, but it isn’t common. In general, fleas prefer to live on smaller animals, such as dogs and cats, that spend most of their time lying on beddings. Moreover, horses have a thick coat for fleas to bite through.

In this article, I’ll discuss why horses rarely get fleas. You’ll also learn how to remove fleas from your horse. Keep reading to understand how to keep your equine free from fleas.

Why Do Horses Rarely Get Fleas?

Can Horses Get Fleas

Horses rarely get fleas because they don’t make good hosts. Fleas prefer animals that live in tunnels, dens, caves, and nests. Such animals are typically small, with a soft coat suitable for fleas. Unlike horses, these animals spend most of their time lying on the ground.

Horses also spend most of their time outdoors, making it challenging for fleas to establish themselves on the animal. Fleas are usually found on a horse’s neck and tail.

Additionally, the National Library of Medicine discusses that horses groom themselves frequently by scratching, licking, and rolling. These self-grooming mechanisms help horses remove fleas and other parasites from their skin.

Signs That Your Horse Has Fleas

It can be challenging to tell if your horse has fleas. That’s because horses are such good groomers. However, if you suspect that your horse has fleas, there are a few ways to tell, as discussed below:

You Found Black Specks on Your Horse’s Coat

A study by PetMD discloses that flea dirt resembles pepper-like black specks that are round. If you notice these specks on your horse’s coat, it may indicate that fleas are present.

The best way to determine if the black specks are flea dirt is to place them on a wet cotton ball. If the specks turn red, then they’re flea dirt.

It’s easy to spot flea dirt on your horse’s skin and coat. Alternatively, you can use a flea comb or fingers to check whether the coat has flea dirt. Run the comb against the direction of your horse’s hair—doing so parts the hair revealing either the fleas or their dirt.

Your Horse Starts Scratching and Losing Hair

Fleas cause irritation and discomfort, leading the animal to scratch frequently. The act of scratching breaks the skin, allowing bacteria to enter, thus causing infections.

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If you notice bald spots on your horse’s coat or it scratches excessively, take a closer look for flea dirt or fleas.

Your Horse Has Anemia

Fleas can make your equine anemic because they suck blood for survival.

Anemia is a condition where there’s a decrease in the number of healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to different body parts.

Anemia is a severe condition in horses with the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Pale gums
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

The only way to ascertain whether your horse has anemia is by consulting a vet. The vet will diagnose the animal and outline the possible remedies. As discussed in the MSD Veterinary Manual, a key consideration is to ensure your equine gets enough iron by feeding it the following:

  • Fenugreek
  • Multivitamin supplements
  • Seaweed
  • Nettles

Potential Causes of Fleas in Horses

Although horses are not prone to fleas, the likelihood of your equine getting fleas depends mainly on your care.

Some potential causes of fleas in horses include:

Interaction With Dogs and Cats

Fleas are common among cats and dogs. If your cat or dog has fleas and interacts with a horse, chances are the fleas will jump onto your equine.

Ensure cats and dogs don’t get into your horse’s barn. The barn should be exclusively for the horse to prevent fleas or their eggs that can cause havoc.

Grooming your cats and dogs regularly to eliminate fleas is also essential. Additionally, you should consult a vet for possible treatment options such as oral or topical medications.

Staying in Unhygienic Places

If you don’t clean your horse’s barn regularly, then it’s likely to harbor fleas. That’s because fleas love staying in unhygienic and dark places.

Sweep the barn daily and ensure there’s enough ventilation. You should also eliminate items that may attract fleas, such as hay, straw, or wood shavings.

Disinfecting the barn using bleach or any other reliable cleaning agent is also essential.

Feeding in Tall Grasses and Shrubs

Fleas love places with tall grasses and shrubs where they can find shelter. If you feed your horse in such an environment, it’s likely to get fleas.

The best way to avoid this is by feeding your horse in a clean and well-maintained area. You should also regularly groom your horse. That way, you’ll eliminate fleas that may have found their way onto your horse’s coat.

How To Remove Fleas From a Horse

Finding fleas on your equine is a heart-wrenching experience. You’ll be left at crossroads wondering how to remove these parasites. Luckily for you, the following are easy ways to get rid of fleas from your horse:

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Bath the Horse

Bathing your horse is an effective way of getting rid of fleas. You should do it in a well-ventilated area such as a paddock. It’s advisable to use soap and shampoo that kill fleas on contact.

Mix 1/4 cup (60 ml) of dish soap and 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water to bathe the horse. A key point to remember when bathing your horse is to brush against the hair’s growth direction to part them.

Dip the Horse

Dipping involves immersing the animal in a chemical solution that kills fleas on contact. However, you must ensure the horse doesn’t inhale harmful chemicals by dipping it in a well-ventilated area.

It’s also essential to ensure you don’t leave the horse in the dip for more than five minutes. That’s because the chemicals can cause skin irritation and other health problems.

Spray the Horse

Spraying is an option if you don’t have a dip. However, you should use a spray designed to kill fleas and their eggs; an excellent example is the Pet Naturals Flea and Tick Prevention Spray from Amazon. This spray offers a pleasant smell and doesn’t contain synthetic chemicals.

The best time to spray the horse is when it’s dry since water can dilute the chemicals in the spray.

Final Thoughts

Horses are susceptible to fleas because their hair can host these blood-sucking parasites. However, you can prevent fleas by grooming your horse and keeping its environment clean.

Avoid places with high grasses and shrubs where fleas thrive. If you take these precautions, you’ll significantly reduce the chances of your equine getting fleas.

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