How to Treat Lice in Horses

lice on horses

Lice are small, wingless parasites that can infest horses and cause itching, irritation, and hair loss. They feed on the horse’s blood and can cause discomfort and stress, which can affect their overall health and performance. The two main types of lice found in horses are sucking lice (Bovicola) and chewing lice (Trichodectes). Here are some steps to treat lice in horses:

Types of Equine Lice

Equine lice are ectoparasites that feed on the blood of horses. There are two types of equine lice: sucking lice and biting lice. Sucking lice, such as Haematopinus asini and Bovicola breviceps, attach to the skin with their mouthparts and feed on the horse’s blood. Biting lice, such as Damalinia equi and Linognathus affinis, feed on the skin, hair, and dirt around the horse’s body.


The symptoms of lice infestation in horses can vary, but some common signs include:

  • Itching, rubbing and biting of the affected area
  • Hair loss, particularly around the mane, tail, and neck
  • Skin irritation, redness, and inflammation
  • Scabs and crusts on the skin
  • Poor coat condition and dullness

Causes of Occurrence

Lice infestations in horses are usually caused by direct contacts with other infested horses or contaminated equipment, such as brushes, blankets, and saddles. Horses in poor health weakened immune systems, and inadequate grooming practices are more susceptible to lice infestations.


Diagnosing lice infestations in horses involves a thorough physical examination and close inspection of the horse’s skin and hair. Lice and their eggs (nits) can be seen on the hair shafts and skin surface, particularly in areas where hair is thin or rubbed away. A veterinarian may also perform a skin scraping to check for lice eggs or other skin parasites.


There are several treatment options available to get rid of lice in horses, including:

  • Topical insecticides: These are applied directly to the horse’s skin and hair, and can kill both lice and their eggs. Some products may require multiple applications or a follow-up treatment to ensure all lice are eliminated.
  • Oral medications: These are given to the horse orally and can help to kill lice and other parasites from the inside out.
  • Shampoos and dips: These are formulated with insecticides and can be used to wash the horse’s hair and skin to eliminate lice.

It’s important to follow the instructions on the product label carefully and to consult with a veterinarian before administering any treatments.

How to Prevent Lice

To prevent lice infestations in horses, you can take the following steps:

  • Maintain good hygiene and grooming practices, including regular brushing, washing, and cleaning of equipment.
  • Isolate new horses or those with suspected infestations until they have been examined and treated.
  • Provide adequate nutrition and care to maintain the horse’s overall health and immune system.
  • Use fly repellents and insecticides as needed to prevent the spread of lice and other parasites.


In conclusion, lice infestations in horses can cause discomfort and affect their overall health and performance. It’s important to diagnose and treat the infestation promptly using topical insecticides, oral medications, or shampoos and dips. Good hygiene and grooming practices, isolation of infested horses, and the use of fly repellents and insecticides can also help to prevent lice infestations in horses. Consulting with a veterinarian is always recommended for proper diagnosis and treatment.


How long do lice live on horses?

Lice can live on horses for 10 to 21 days, depending on the species of lice and the environmental conditions.

How much is lice treatment

The cost of lice treatment for horses can vary depending on several factors, such as the severity of the infestation, the type of treatment used, and the location of the horse. Generally, topical insecticides, oral medications, shampoos, and dips can cost anywhere from $20 to $100 or more, depending on the brand and size of the product.

How contagious are lice in horses?

Lice infestations are contagious and can spread quickly among horses in the same environment. It is important to keep horses separated if one has been diagnosed with lice, as the parasites can be transferred through direct contact or indirectly via grooming tools and bedding.

Can lice live in the hay?

Yes, lice can live in the hay, as it is an ideal environment for them to lay eggs and reproduce. It is important to inspect hay bales before feeding them to horses, as this will help reduce the risk of lice infestation.

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