Itching in Horses: What To Do About the Itchy Horse

Do you know that too: You have been bitten by a mosquito, have you burned yourself in the sun or simply have particularly dry skin? The itching often has no end here. But while we humans can consciously try to counteract the stimulus, it is different with our animals. They often scratch the affected areas until the skin is completely chafed. How you can prevent this, recognize and treat itching in horses, you will find out from us!

Recognize Itching in Horses

In fact, itching in horses is usually relatively easy to recognize; it is more the finding of the cause that proves to be difficult. Usually, a specific part of the horse’s skin is affected. The animal will try to rub and scratch itself on this. To do this, it first uses its own teeth or tail, if possible.

If the area is difficult to reach, the horse will begin to rub against fences, trees, stakes, and the box wall to ease the itching. But instead of helping, the scratching often leads to even worse skin irritation. If this results in bloody spots, bacteria can also penetrate here, which can result in secondary infections.

Frustration can also lead the horses to kick and kick. Look out for these symptoms, and then first remove any possible spots that the horse could rub. You can also upholster trees and walls accordingly and thus significantly reduce the risk of injury.

Possible Causes & Treatments

Itching in horses can have a number of different causes. In the case of some diseases, it is even in the foreground, for example in the case of an attack by parasites or an allergy such as summer eczema. Here it is important to fight the trigger as quickly as possible and thus help the horse. We have put together a brief overview of the three most common diseases that cause itching.

Allergic Reactions: Eczema

In principle, eczema is a skin disease that is triggered by various environmental influences. In addition to summer eczema, rain eczema is also widespread and manifests itself in a wide variety of horse breeds. Horses that suffer from particularly easily irritated skin or stand near mosquito-contaminated areas in summer are more often affected.

The cause of the outbreak of sweet itch is usually the bite of a black fly. In their secretion, there are proteins to which some horses have an allergic reaction. However, the disease is not contagious. It looks different from rain eczema because this is caused by bacteria. Infection mainly settles in small wounds and multiplies there.

More Symptoms of Eczema

While summer eczema is always accompanied by very strong itching in horses, this is rather rare with rain eczema. However, both may have pustules, as well as open and bald spots. The sweet itch is also often expressed as crusts and scales. Weeping wounds, which bring secondary infections with them, are unfortunately not uncommon.

Rain eczema, on the other hand, often causes a fever due to the bacteria that live here. Your horse will then often be sensitive to touch. Reddened and swollen areas are also typical. Encrustations can be the result of such an infection.

Treatment Methods for Rainy and Sweet Itch

In the case of sweet itch, the first thing to do is to treat the itching in the horse. To do this, you can use special creams and shampoos. Eczema blankets, anti-mosquito sprays, and appropriate food supplements can also help. What else you can do, we have recorded in our article about the sweet itch in horses.

With rain eczema (also known as dermatophilosis or rain mange), on the other hand, the focus is on disinfection and thus combating bacteria. To do this, you should carefully rinse the wounds with soapy water and remove the crusts. It is best to use disposable gloves and thoroughly disinfect all cleaning items. It can take 6 weeks for the wounds to completely close and heal.

When It’s Cold and Wet: Muddy

Mauke is a bacterial skin disease that occurs particularly in the cold and humid seasons in autumn and winter. The reason for this is the persistent wetness in the litter, on the paddock, and in the pasture. This can encourage the growth of bacteria and parasites. In addition, the horse now often goes through a coat change. The immune defense is already weakened and it is much more difficult to avert such infections.

The disease usually manifests itself first in the form of reddening of the skin, which occurs in the fetlock area. These can also swell and show up through lameness. Often the inflamed areas start to itch a lot, which is why the horses rub themselves. As a result, open wounds form. Blistering and scabbing are also often seen.

In order to prevent this itching in the horse, it is important that you contact the veterinarian at the first symptoms. Because if left untreated, Mauke can also become chronic. Also, make sure that the environment is particularly clean and dry. You can also trim the fetlock curtain a little because it often provides a good breeding ground for the bacteria.

Lice, Mites, etc: Parasite Infestation

Various parasites can also cause itching in horses. Lice, hair lice, and mites, in particular, like to nestle in the animal’s fur and feed on hair, scales, and blood. Usually, the mane and tail region are affected first, but such an infestation can also spread further.

The cause is often poor hygiene or a very humid environment. Constant contact with other horses that carry the parasites can also be a trigger. If the immune system is also weakened by an illness, it is easy for the pests to settle in. However, they can also be discovered quickly if you tap a brush over a white cloth after cleaning. If lice and the like have found a new home on your horse, some of them will also get caught in the brush and are thus visible.

You will definitely recognize the parasite infestation by the very strong itching in the horse. It constantly rubs its mane and tail and generally looks much more restless. Often there are also crusted areas, which are, however, constantly scratched up again. Secondary infections are also possible. To treat the infestation, it is best to use antiseptic shampoos and to groom the horse regularly to “comb out” the vermin. Brush your tail and mane often. The equipment must be disinfected both afterward and, at best, beforehand.

What Helps Against Itching in Horses?

Depending on the cause, the itching can be combated in very different ways. In general, however, different creams and lotions can always be applied, which provide selective relief. At best, these contain calming herbs like chamomile or lavender. Zinc is also known to help relieve itching. Regular cleaning also counteracts some diseases.

Various other herbs are also known to strengthen and stabilize the skin’s metabolism. Thus, for example, dandelion, milk thistle, and stinging nettle counteract itching in horses. Flea and flax seeds can also prove beneficial. You can easily mix these into the feed. Tea tree and lavender oil, on the other hand, can be applied directly to the skin and have a calming and antiseptic effect.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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