Topical permethrin may increase blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) repellency but is associated with cutaneous irritation in horses

Karen C. Poh, Zoey T. Cole, Danielle N. Smarsh, Hayley R. Springer, Kathleen Kelly, Laura B. Kenny, Erika T. Machtinger

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1 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE To evaluate the safety of repeated applications of permethrin concentrations (0% control, 1.5%, 5%, and 10%) to the necks and faces of horses and assess the efficacy and longevity of permethrin as an equine tick repellent. ANIMALS 5 healthy adult Quarter Horses. PROCEDURES Each treatment was applied to the neck of each horse (0.01 m2) 4 times a day, for up to 10 days. An 8-mm biopsy was taken to evaluate postexposure dermal responses. Any treatments that were not withdrawn were applied to a quadrant of the horse’s face 4 times a day, for up to 5 days. For tick bioassays, a treatment was applied to 1 leg of a horse and 5 female blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) were evaluated as “repelled” or “not repelled” by the treatment. The bioassays were repeated up to 5 days, but treatment application took place only on the first day of the experiment. RESULTS Histological results of neck biopsies indicated that more repeated exposures or higher concentrations resulted in more dermal damage. Tick bioassays showed that 5% and 10% permethrin had the greatest efficacy and longevity as a tick repellent, but the differences in tick repellency were not significant overall. CLINICAL RELEVANCE While there was a nonsignificant trend of higher permethrin concentrations repelling more ticks with longer-lasting residual repellent effects, higher concentrations also produced greater skin damage after repeated exposures. These opposing findings emphasize the need for better tick prevention and control methods that balance safety and efficacy for the equine community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican journal of veterinary research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Veterinary


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