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Sweet itch horses in a field

Sweet Itch

Sweet itch

What is sweet itch? It is caused by biting insects whose saliva contains a certain protein which causes a horse to have an allergic reaction. It causes the horses immune system to attack its own cells. This leads to the extreme discomfort.

It is also know as Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis. Equine Insect Bite Hypersensitivity is also a common name for it. There are some breeds of horse, that are found to be a lot more prone to suffering. Breeds such as, Warmbloods, Icelandic horses and our own Exmoor ponies.

The UK has two main insect culprits that cause this uncomfortable ailment, these are, the midge (Culicoides) and the black fly (Simulium). Horses are most commonly affected between March – November each year, when the biting insects are most active.

Culicoides

Culicoides midge

Simulium

Simulium black fly
Sweet itch on withers and back
Sweet itch on rump

What are the signs?

The main signs of a horse suffering from sweet itch are, at the base of the mane and tail, and on the face. Other affected areas can be, withers, back, belly and rump. All of these are the areas where the biting insects will normally bite and feed from the horse.

Signs include:

Intense itchiness.

Discomfort can become so severe that the horse will scratch itself on anything available including posts, stable doors and trees.

Vigorous tail swishing, in an effort to keep the insects away.

Excessive mutual grooming from field companions.

Excessive rolling and scratching at their mane with their hind hooves.

Hair loss can occur through scratching and the skin may become inflamed, crusty and sore, with broken skin potentially leading to infection.

As the condition progresses, skin thickens, folds develop and the hair can become sparse and coarse with flaky dandruff.

A change in the horse’s behaviour such as seeming lethargic or agitated, restless and impatient, with a lack of concentration when being ridden.

A horse may also shake its head or become restless if flying insects are close by.

How to manage and control sweet itch

There is no known current cure that is available for sweet itch, and the condition usually recurs every year at the first contact with midges or flies. If your horse commonly suffers from sweet itch there are actions you can take to help with your horses comfort during the relevant months.

Being proactive is the main component to ensuring your horses comfort. The main one is to cover the most affected areas of your horse in order to give them the best protection.

Warm and moist conditions are a midges paradise. Areas where droppings, are left provide an ideal breeding or gathering ground for them. Regularly removing any droppings from areas occupied by your horse will help immensely.

Midges do not like to travel great distances due to being poor fliers. Keep your horse off boggy ground if at all possible.

Try to avoid areas where water collects, such as ponds etc as these are the main breeding grounds. The larval require water through the various development stages of growth.

There are specific sweet itch rugs available in the market, these could trap midges flies in them and make the condition worse. During very warm weather these could potentially cause your horse to overheat.

How to ease sweet itch

Woolnough’s have developed a specific natural oil based cream, ‘Saracen’s sweet itch relief balm’, to provide your horse with the best possible protection, and comfort during this period of the year.

This has received great reviews by those who use it, and customers keep coming back for more.

Give your horse the comfort and freedom it deserves this summer. Use ‘Saracen’s sweet itch relief balm’.

We have developed this cream to be easy to apply and long lasting.

As a result it will give your horse comfort on all affected areas. It should last anything up to a week before the next application is required.

It is available in 250ml and 500ml jars, which come with anti-tamper lids.

Treat your horse now with ‘Saracen’s sweet itch relief balm’. Give them the comfort that they deserve.

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