website Identify Ticks & Tick-Borne Disease in Horses and Dogs

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Identify Ticks & Tick-Borne Disease in Horses and Dogs

Person riding a horse and UltraShield Fly Control

Are your animals at risk? You’ve seen the headlines. Ticks are spreading across the country earlier than usual, bringing tick-borne disease with them, putting horses and dogs at risk. Read on for our roundup of information about tick species and their habitats. And don’t worry: the premium pest control brand UltraShield® from Absorbine® offers multiple ways to protect your horse from ticks. Combine UltraShield® solutions with a few tips and best practices to protect your animals against tick-borne disease!

Ticks are notoriously difficult to find on a horse because horses are big, while ticks are small, slow moving, and dark colored. To make matters worse, ticks go through a nymphal stage during which they are even smaller. Many tick-borne diseases can still be transmitted by ticks during their nymph stage, including Lyme disease. So, let’s take a look at the diseases and their symptoms, the most common tick species (don’t get too creeped out!) and finally tactics and products that will help you and your animals keep those ticks at bay.

Diseases, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Here is your cheat sheet for recognizing the symptoms of tick-borne disease in horses and dogs.

Lyme Disease

It can take up to six weeks for Lyme disease symptoms to present themselves. It takes between 36-48 hours for the disease to be transmitted once a tick had attached to its host. There are multiple ways to test for Lyme disease, including tests to see if a tick you find on your animal is infected, as well as tests to see if your animal has been infected. Not all animals will contract Lyme even if the tick found on them was positive for it. It’s a complicated disease. For more information, see an in-depth article from our friends at here.

  • Joint stiffness
  • Shifting lameness (lameness travels from limb to limb)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Weight loss/loss of appetite
  • Swollen/warm joints
  • Lethargy
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Stiff, arched-back walk (dogs)
  • Uveitis (horses)
Anaplasmosis (Formerly Ehrlichiosis in horses)

Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis present similar symptoms, but are different pathogens and are transmitted by different ticks. Symptoms of Anaplasmosis present themselves in the Acute Stage within one to three weeks of infection. This disease is not always treated in horses, but once diagnosed should be monitored closely as symptoms can worsen and become more severe. Dogs are typically treated for both Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis with antibiotics. For more information, see an in-depth article from our friends at here.

  • High fever
  • Edema/swelling
  • Weight loss/loss of appetite
  • Inability to walk regularly (ataxia)
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Difficult respiration
Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Dogs will show symptoms within five days of becoming infected. This disease is not considered a problem for horses, but is common in dogs. Purebreds and notably German Shepherds are known to have severe reactions.

  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss/loss of appetite
  • Blood in urine
  • Irregular heart beat (arrhythmia)
  • Discolored skin
  • Inability to walk regularly (ataxia)
  • Edema/swelling
  • Sudden bleeding from nose, or bloody stool
  • Difficulty with blood clotting
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Inflammation, hemorrhage, or conjunctivitis in the mucosal membranes, most commonly in the eyes
Identify Your Vectors
Here are some of the most common tick species, where they live, and the tick-borne diseases they may carry

Brown Dog Tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus

These are one of the larger species of ticks and they are found in almost every area of the United States. They can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a dangerous disease for dogs and humans which is not identified as a threat to horses. However, this species is also identified as a carrier for the rarer babesiosis in horses.

Horse Diseases: Babesiosis (A.K.A. Equine Piroplasmosis is rare and not considered endemic to the U.S.)

Dog Diseases: Ehrlichia canis, Anaplasma platys


Black Legged Tick AKA the Deer Tick Ixodes scapularis

Ixodes pacificus (West Coast) not shown here but similar in appearance, also carries Lyme Disease and lives in the Western coastal regions and parts of Utah and Arizona.

These are the little buggers spreading Lyme disease to horses, humans and dogs. They are found mostly in the East, South East, Gulf States and Lakes region. However, scientists tracking them say they are steadily spreading across the country.

Horse Diseases: Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis (Formerly Ehrlichiosis) & Babesiosis (A.K.A. Equine Piroplasmosis is rare and not considered endemic to the U.S.)

Dog Diseases: Lyme Disease, Anaplasma phagocytophilum

American Dog Tick Dermacentor variabilis

American Dog Ticks are not typically a threat to horses, but can be for dogs. These ticks are similar to Gulf Coast ticks in appearance.

Horse Diseases: Babesiosis (A.K.A. Equine Piroplasmosis is rare and not considered endemic to the U.S.)

Dog Diseases: Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Lone Star Tick Amblyomma americanum

Lone Star Ticks are a little easier to identify females in their adult stages because of the small white dot on their backs. These ticks are known for their ability to jump and move quickly, which makes them a formidable foe.

Horse Diseases: Anaplasmosis

Dog Diseases: Ehrlichia ewingii and Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Gulf Coast Ticks Amblyomma maculatum

The Gulf Coast Tick has a restricted range, confined to the gulf coast area and parts of the southeastern sea board. They have a somewhat distinctive pattern on their backs. Horse Diseases: None Dog Diseases: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever has a tool to with more pictures to help you identify the ticks in your area. Click here to view their Tick ID Page.

Tick Removal Tips

Nobody wants a tick on them. Active preventative measures can help limit the risk of tick bites, but in the event you find one attached to your horse or dog, here’s how to safely remove it.

  1. Get a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a special tick removal tool.
  2. Grasp the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible.
  3. Pull it out with a steady, even motion. Do not twist or squish the tick, otherwise the head may break off in the skin.
  4. Wrap it up in a plastic bag and place it in the trash. Do not try to kill the tick with your hands.
  5. Make sure to disinfect your horse’s skin and your hands after tick disposal.
  6. To help treat tick bites and reduce irritation, use a small dab of Silver Honey® Rapid Wound Repair Ointment.


You’ll want to do everything you can to keep ticks off you, your dogs and your horses. In addition to our UltraShield® tick protection products, add these tips to your plan for a tick-free season!

  • Remove their environment. Ticks like the transition areas and bushes on the edges of fields. Trim back bushes at the edges of lawns and fields where your animals hang out. Ticks will also hide on low plants at the edges of trails. Once they know animals will be passing by regularly, they will come back to these areas. Try to stick to the center of trails. Young ticks (nymphs) like dark, moist areas like leaf piles so try to remove those too. Then take a shower.
  • Keep grass short where applicable. Buy a lint roller, the kind with white sticky paper pads. Use it to roll over legs, faces, tail areas and bodies after being in tick areas (see above). You’ll be able to see any ticks stuck to the pad!
  • Consider treating the edges of your property with a pyrethrin-based premise spray to add a barrier between ticks and your animals and family. There are services that will come and apply them for you.
  • Inspect your animals by hand, feeling for attached ticks. They’ll love the attention and you’ll gain piece of mind. Ticks can attach in hard to reach areas like ears, armpits, rear-ends etc. where a lint roller may not reach well.
  • Remove food sources for deer which harbor ticks.
Use These Trusted UltraShield® Products To Protect Your Animals!

Horse wearing a fly mask

Shown above are tick control solutions offered in the UltraShield® line. From left to right: UltraShield® EX Insecticide & Repellent, the “The Fly Spray In The Black Bottle®” as people call it, stands at the top of our line and is intended for the most intense pest conditions. It contains ingredients to both kill and repel ticks, plus coat conditioners and ingredients to help protect the formula from sun and rain and is approved for use on dogs. UltraShield® Green Natural Insect Repellent offers natural tick repellency for up to 8 hours and is approved for use on dogs. UltraShield® Red is your dependable utility player. It kills ticks on contact, and stands up well to the elements. Last, protect your horse’s face from ticks and flies lurking at the fence line with our newly redesigned UltraShield® Fly Mask. Combine the UltraShield® products that are right for you and your animals for a tick-free season.

Applying UltraShield® sprays on horses and dogs

NOTE: UltraShield® Red is not approved for use on dogs. Never use insecticides and repellents made for dogs on a cat - Absorbine does not make any pest control that can be used for cats.

  • Shake well before using
  • Spray your animal's entire coat, while avoiding sensitive areas like eyes and mouths
  • Hold sprayer 8-10 inches from coat ensuring liquid lands on the coat
  • Use the correct amount on label – about 2 ounces or 45 pumps (average horse, UltraShield® EX) For dogs, spray until coat is slightly damp and brush it into the coat
  • Use a rag or towel to apply sprays to your dog’s head and ears, or if they don’t like being sprayed
  • Supervise dogs after application until product dries
  • Apply more often at first, it will last longer as coverage builds on the coat
  • Re-apply after a bath, swimming, or heavy rain
  • Store your UltraShield® out of the sun

Using UltraShield® Fly Masks on Horses

  • Choose a fly mask size using the halter size as a rough guide
  • Once fitted, trim away excess hook and loop material
  • Wash your fly mask if it gets dirty

We hope you “enjoyed” our round-up of tick-based information. It’s not a fun topic, but with an integrated approach, some help from UltraShield® and your diligence, you’ll avoid ticks and tick-borne disease in horses and dogs this season!