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Ectoparasites - Haematopinus

Haematopinus asini: Sucking louse of horses

General Description: Haematopinus asini is 3 to 3.5 mm. long, with a dorsoventrally flattened body, 3 pairs of legs, dark brown lateral plates, and a long narrow head with piercing mouth parts adapted to sucking blood and tissue fluids.

Life Cycle: All stages of the louse life cycle, which takes about 3 to 4 weeks, occur on the host. Louse eggs, cemented to animal hair, hatch to nymphs, which are small, immature adults. The nymph moults three times before becoming an adult. Lice are host-specific and are classified by their feeding habits.

Location: Haematopinus asini is found predominantly around the head and neck, on the back and brisket, and between the legs of the horse.

Geographical Distribution: Worldwide.

Significance: Haematopinus is more significant than Damalinia because the blood sucking by these lice can cause serious anaemia.

Effect on Host: Haematopinus causes itching and irritation. Blood loss from heavy louse burdens causes anaemia, lowered condition, and increased susceptibility to disease. Louse bites itch, and infested horses scratch and bite themselves. Heavy infestations cause loss of appetite and vitality, particularly in foals.

Diagnostic Information: Identification of lice from the skin and hair.

Control: Because lice do not leave the host animal, treatment of the horse with an organophosphate compound is necessary for control. Frequent grooming helps to remove the parasites.

Haematopinus male image
Haematopinus– male


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