Monday 10th July, 2017
Light nights and hazy days are a horse lovers delight as you enjoy evening hacks and weekend shows in the glorious sunshine, but summer can also signal the unwelcome onset of Sweet Itch with no warning whatsoever. To help you make the most of the season we take a look at the signs of Sweet Itch and how to stop it.
Sweet Itch is an allergic reaction to the saliva of the Culicoides midge that thrives during the summer months, particularly around areas of open water. The midges typically bite the forelock, mane and tail area, and the resulting reaction causes intense itching, hair loss and open lesions which are characteristic of this condition.
The Culicoides midge does not adversely affect all horses, and some may tolerate the bites for many years without ever experiencing an allergic response. However, hypersensitivity to the protein in the midge’s saliva can strike at any time, bringing on Sweet Itch symptoms right out of the blue. Chronic sufferers display flaky, thickened skin, with broken hair, alopecia and raw skin due to the constant scratching and rubbing.
There is no cure for Sweet Itch, however there are many methods that can both relieve and prevent further outbreaks during the summer season.
The Culicoides midge is prevalent around open water where they breed, and most active in low light, meaning that most midge attacks occur at dawn and dusk. If your horse is already prone to sweet itch or you have standing water in your grazing, then you should consider stabling your horse during the midge’s most active times. A cool, well ventilated stable will provide welcome shelter from unwanted bites, not to mention a much-needed rest for horses that are already affected.
When turning out, make sure that your horse is fully protected with fly repellent and summer turnout rugs. Avon Skin So Soft is widely touted to be a Sweet Itch saviour by repelling the midges, so invest in this as your daily go-to fly repellent. If your horse has been affected by Sweet Itch, then invest in a specially designed rug that features a neck and tail guard to protect from further damage and promote healing.
Research has shown that natural nutrition has a huge impact on Sweet Itch sufferers. Diets that are high in sugar, protein and processed feeds can actually attract midge bites, therefore ensure that your horse’s diet is a simple and sugar free as possible to prevent this. Nutritional supplements such as Omega 3 rich Flaxseed and Linseed have been shown to help control the immune response triggered in Sweet Itch sufferers.
Finally, consult your veterinarian for advice on how to treat your horse in the event of a Sweet Itch outbreak, and invest in some gentle, natural remedies such as Aloe Vera, which is known for its soothing properties on intensely itchy and inflamed skin.