May 17, 2009 | | Comments 0

Stomach Bots in Horses

Horse worms and stomach bots are not the same. Although both can cause health problems in horses, bots in equine stomachs come from botflies. These are common insects in North America, hence it is to be expected that nearly every horse has some amount of stomach bots. Botflies are typically around from spring to autumn which also corresponds to the usual time when horses become infected with them.

Horse Botfly

Horse Botfly

Horses can get bots in their stomachs through eggs hatched by botflies on different parts of horses. The three different types of botflies lay their eggs in three distinct regions in a horse’s body. Gastrophilus nasalis lay eggs in the hair below the throat or jaws. Gastrophilus hemorrhoidalis lays eggs on the hairs located on the lip region. The most common of the three types is Gastrophilus intestinalis which lays eggs on hairs on the front legs, chest and shoulders.

All three types of bot eggs hatch and find their way into the stomach as larvae. G. intestinalis in particular hatch quickly because it comes into contact with the warm breath of a host horse. Horses that have botflies and eggs around them may lick the parts where eggs are laid to ease feelings of discomfort.

It is when the eggs are licked that they hatch. The larvae of stomach bots hide temporarily in the muscles of the tongue or on the gums. After some time, these bots will molt and will move on into the stomach. Once there, they stick to the stomach lining. Stomach bots stay in horses’ stomachs for many months and are usually expelled only during spring. At this time, bot larvae become botflies. Strangely enough, these flies do not seem to eat and thrive purely on the energy that they have in their bodies. It is as if these flies live only to reproduce on horses and cause horses a lot of discomfort.

Bot larvae are not often regarded as causes for serious concern. This is especially since they are eventually expelled anyway come spring. Untreated stomach bots in large amounts however can lead to tremendous discomfort. Horses may injure themselves by repeatedly hitting their stomachs. Bots can also cause digestive problems, weight loss and poor coat growth. Severe bot infestations can even lead to ulcers and more serious perforations of the stomach lining.

Since botflies are everywhere, it is almost impossible to prevent stomach bots. However, there are a few strategies that can help limit the number of stomach bots that get into a stomach’s horses. Horse owners can may manually remove bot eggs once they notice them on horse hair. Some horse owners opt to use chemicals on a horse’s coat to kill eggs even before they cause irritation. Lukewarm sponging can also help ease the discomfort caused by bot eggs.

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