Horses are resilient creatures. Bred for rugged conditions, they’re designed to naturally fend off pests and self-clean. But they’re not infallible. There are instances where a horse may need their owner’s assistance to maintain their health.
For example, ear mites are an atypical issue that, if left untreated, have the potential to go from a simple annoyance to a serious health concern.
But what are the signs and symptoms of ear mites in horses?
Today, we’ll answer those questions so that you know how to protect and then treat your horse.
What Are Equine Ear Mites?
Horse mites—Psoroptes Equi—are miniature insects that burrow into a horse’s flesh. At less than 1mm in size, they can be spotted by the naked eye, but you have to be proactively looking for the small white dots. They may be found beneath the mane, the tail, between the hind legs, or in a horse’s ear. When left unchecked, a body or ear mite infestation can cause an infected animal to experience hair loss, demodectic mange, and other horse skin problems.
There are dozens of different types of horse mites. But as the American Association of Equine Practitioners notes:1
“The genus has now been lumped into a single species, although various populations of the mite are associated with specific areas of the body of specific host species. Psoroptes are identified by the tarsal suckers on long jointed stalks; the body is oval with at least 3 pairs of legs extending past body margins.”
In this case, the mite species in discussion is Psoroptes Cuniculi Ovis—the ear mite.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Ear Mites?
A mite infestation can make a horse extremely uncomfortable, causing intense itching and rubbing. So, if your horse has ear mites, there’s a high likelihood that they’ll make their displeasure known.
Put simply, ear mites are annoying. They’re often itchy and painful. This means there should be plenty of visual and olfactory tell-tale signs, including:2
- Shaking head – If the horse is shaking their head frequently, it may be a sign that they’re trying to dislodge mites.
- Rubbing ears – A horse will try their best to remove the pesky critters, and it’s not discretionary about what tools they will use to do that. The most frequent ear scratchers are fence posts or the horse’s stall. If you’re interested in learning more about how to treat horse scratches, we’ve written about this topic in detail on our blog as well.
- Sensitivity around the ears – Although some horses may already be sensitive to being touched around their ears, a mite infestation may make them extremely tender to contact.
- Drooping ears – One of the most common visual signs of a mite infestation may be a drooping ear, caused by an inflamed ear canal. If you notice dropping in your horse’s ear, it may be caused by an ear mite infestation.
- Discharge – Excess ear wax, crusting, and blood are common types of discharge that may occur in or around a horse’s ear. These issues are exacerbated when the horse constantly rubs their head.
- Marks – The horse’s ears may have red, irritated skin, or even visible bite marks.
- Odor – The sensitivity to the mites may cause swelling and discharge, which can have a pungent smell.
When it comes to equine health issues, the quicker you can treat the problem, the better. Staying vigilant and proactive not only helps you control the severity of the outbreak in the impacted horse but also keeps it from spreading to other animals in the stable.
Even though ear mites aren’t frequent issues for horses, it pays to be on alert and to regularly perform thorough inspections and cleanings. Should you notice signs of an equine ear infection or ear mites in your animal, take them in to the vet as soon as possible.
How to Treat Ear Mites
Preventing ear mites may be difficult. For one thing, there are a wide array of mites and pests present in a horse’s normal environment. And other horses may have them, even if they’re not presenting symptoms. Because of this, the best thing you can do is regularly clean your horse’s ears, keep an eye out for early signs, and then act immediately if the horse presents symptoms.
Should your horse have a full-blown ear-mite infection, their head and ears will likely be sensitive to touch. Therefore, they may not be receptive to your help. And because ear mites typically burrow deep into the ear canal, it’s best to enlist the services of a professional veterinarian .
A horse vet will have the tools to examine the impacted area and then clean it. After the infestation is removed, they can also provide prescriptions or treatments to prevent a secondary infection from occurring. Chances are, they will prescribe a dewormer like Ivermectin and a topical ear mite treatment that needs to be applied daily.
Vetericyn—The Ear Cleaning Solution
Do you want a safe way to ensure that your horse’s ears are clean and hygienic?
Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Ear Rinse is a safe and natural way to ensure that your loyal steed is in good health. It helps remove foreign materials, alleviates irritations, and keeps the ear clean. And by applying it regularly, you create an opportunity to visually inspect the area in and around your horse’s ears.
So, if you want the recipe for preventative ear care, you’ve come to the right place.
- AAEP. Mites. https://aaep.org/sites/default/files/Guidelines/Mites.pdf
- Horse DVM. Ear Mites. http://www.horsedvm.com/disease/equine-ear-mites/