There is no shortage of stories in the media regarding how mosquitoes cause severe illnesses and death to millions of people around the world. The damage that these disease-carrying pests can inflict on animals gets far less attention, though. Horses in particular are large, inviting targets for mosquitoes.
Preventing mosquito attacks on horses can be difficult without the proper tools and removal methods. When under constant attack by mosquitoes, horses can become infected and succumb to mosquito-borne diseases. That’s why every horse owner should work to control and eliminate these pests.
Why Are Horses Attractive to Mosquitoes?
Horses draw mosquitoes for a number of reasons, and this attraction puts them at increased risk of the diseases and infections associated with bites.
Large Body Size – Horses are big, of course, and that gives the mosquito more surface area to land on and explore. Their large size gives them a larger heat signature, too, a factor for mosquitoes as they seek out prey.
Light Hair Covering – Horses have a very fine, very short coat. That makes it easy for mosquitoes to insert their proboscis and draw blood.
Lack of Countermeasures – A horse doesn’t have much in the way of defenses against mosquitoes and other biting insects. It has its tail, its head and it can run away. Those meager tools won’t be able to stop many mosquitoes.
Massive Lungs – A horses’ lungs are huge – they’re big enough to draw in 10 gallons of air every second. With all that air flowing in and out, they’re also expelling lots of CO2, which is a major draw to mosquitoes.
Outdoors 24/7 – Horses don’t get to hide inside when mosquito activity is bad. Even if you count being in a barn as “inside,” most are far from bug-proof. All this time outside gives mosquitoes plenty of opportunities to bite a horse.
Proximity to Breeding Sites – In a pasture, horses are often close to mosquito breeding sites, which includes ponds, puddles, water-filled tire tracks and even water troughs.
Mosquitoes & Equine Encephalitis
Horses in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states are at risk of contracting a mosquito-borne disease known as Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), an affliction that attacks the central nervous system and can cause severe health complications , including death. This disease can infect humans and horses, which means it’s especially important to control on the farm.
In horses, EEE brings a high fever for up to 48 hours in the early stages. Later, the disease hits the nervous system, leading to high auditory sensitivity, restlessness and aimless wandering. Paralysis follows that and horse mortality rates range up to 90 percent.
Another lethal version of the disease, known as Western equine encephalitis (WEE), is sometimes found in horses west of the Mississippi River and in portions of Canada and Mexico. It is far less common and far less deadly than EEE, though.
A vaccine is available to protect horses from EEE and WEE, and horses should be given this treatment each spring. Doses of this vaccine should be given more often if there’s a local outbreak.
West Nile Virus in Horses
Another disease that poses a threat to horses is West Nile encephalitis, which is caused by the West Nile Virus transmitted via mosquito bites. Here are a few West Nile Virus (WNV) facts that every horse owner should know:
West Nile Virus can cause an inflammation of the central nervous system that is potentially fatal.
Infections are most likely to occur in the late summer and early fall in horses located wherever this disease is prevalent.
There is no specific treatment or known cure for West Nile Virus in horses, although veterinary care can help to alleviate some symptoms. However, researchers recently announced a WNV vaccine has been developed for horses. Once fully approved for use, it should be available from veterinarians.
Common WNV symptoms in horses include aimless wandering or walking in circles, weakness or paralysis in hind limbs, inability to swallow, head pressing, and in later stages, coma and death.
Protecting Horses Against Mosquito-Borne Diseases
Horse farm owners bear the responsibility of protecting their animals against the serious diseases carried by mosquitoes. There are a lot of factors that should be considered when creating an effective strategy for farm mosquito control. One way to limit the risk to your animals is to remove sources of stagnant water that serve as prime mosquito breeding grounds. Even a small puddle or water that collects in an old bucket or wheelbarrow can be highly attractive to mosquitoes, so be sure to check your property thoroughly. Using the right type of trap can also provide effective and safe mosquito control for horses and other animals throughout the season.
Here's a quick checklist of actions you can take to limit mosquito breeding sites:
Add Fish to Water Troughs & Ponds
Refill Bird Baths Daily
Drill Holes in Containers & Tires that Unintentionally Hold Water
Remove Unusable Tires from Your Property
Turn Over Wheelbarrows and Other Water-collecting Objects
Check Irrigation Ditches for Stagnant Water
Aerate Pools & Ponds
Use Landscaping to Drain Water from Your Property
Set up CO2 mosquito traps near stables and feeding areas
Safe and Reliable Mosquito Control for All Pets
If you own horses, other livestock or pets, including cats and dogs, a Mosquito Magnet® trap can provide your pets with the mosquito protection solution they need. These traps can improve their quality of living, reduce stress and curb the potential for illness.
Mosquito Magnet® CO2 traps draw mosquitoes away from real targets by using an attractant that’s coupled with a carbon dioxide release. Taken together, this release mimics the exhalations of people and animals.
When in operation, these traps capture biting insects with a patented CounterFlow™ Technology vacuum that traps them in a net where they die of dehydration within 24 hours.
Implement Mosquito Control for Your Animals Before It’s Too Late!
Implementing effective and safe mosquito control for pets and horses, including installing a Mosquito Magnet® trap, will keep your animals out of harm’s way and give you peace of mind. For more information about mosquito trapping, link up to Mosquito Magnet® on Facebook, where we offer interesting facts about mosquitoes, helpful links and more ideas on controlling these dangerous insects.