Recognize and Treat Sweet Itch in Horses

Unfortunately, there are many skin diseases in horses. Summer eczema is a very common and much-discussed disease. It is very important to recognize this early on in order to counteract the symptoms. You will find out below which symptoms can occur, as well as what you should pay attention to during treatment.

What is Sweet Itch Anyway?

Summer eczema is an allergic reaction to the components of the saliva of female mosquitoes, the so-called black flies or midges. When the mosquito bites the horse, it releases some saliva. This is to prevent the blood from clotting. Eczema is very sensitive to this saliva. Depending on the horse and its allergy tendency, the symptoms can vary in severity. Gender, age or coat color hardly play a role. Likewise, all breeds can be susceptible to this allergy, even if supposedly more robust horse breeds suffer from it.

What are the Symptoms?

It is not always possible to clearly identify the symptoms immediately. After all, itching, which can spread over the horse’s body to the tail, and nervous behavior can also be found in other skin diseases, such as summer mange or lice. It is therefore particularly important to take a closer look. The symptoms of summer eczema typically appear on the mane crest, withers, croup, tail, or stomach. The swelling after a prick is very slight at the beginning. However, the horse is plagued by severe itching and shows restless behavior. The horse tries to repel the mosquitoes by hitting the tail, chafing, or hitting the belly with the hind leg. The more it rubs, the faster it will lose its fur in these areas and damage the skin underneath. As a result, secondary infections can occur, as open wounds are a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, or even insects.

After a decline in mosquitoes in the months of July and August was recorded in terms of development, the affected areas can regenerate. But unfortunately, there is a second population surge in September / October. The warmer it gets in autumn, the longer this phase lasts. Only when the winter months approach does your horse calm down and the wounds can heal properly.

What Measures are There?

Treating eczema takes place in different, sometimes parallel steps. There are different approaches with various possibilities. However, not every horse responds to every therapeutic approach. It is important to look at the horse individually in order to find something suitable.

Treatment with Medicines and Homeopathy

In addition to the use of drugs that contain cortisone, for example, there are many other options. The alternative treatment methods not only include the use of homeopathic remedies, Schüßler salts, or herbs. In fact, autologous blood therapy, desensitization, or acupuncture are also very popular.

A few other factors play an important role in the treatment and should definitely be considered, for example in which order different agents must be applied. A wound-healing agent should be applied directly to the skin, while the insect repellent should be applied over it. However, you should make sure that the two applied substances do not compete with each other. This could aggravate or cause other consequences. If you’re not sure, ask your vet for advice.

Change Housing Conditions

However, the best drugs and treatments usually do not help unless the housing conditions are changed and feeding optimized at the same time. In addition to mosquito repellent (such as an eczema blanket and insect spray), this also includes stable and pasture management.

If you work with substances such as diatomaceous earth during the treatment, you should definitely remove the residues from your horse after use. If this mass dries up, it becomes crumbly and itchy. It’s best to brush or wash it off the fur so that it doesn’t promote itching.

Diatomaceous earth is a white-grayish powder that can be used both internally and externally. Especially when used externally, it can be used for eczema or muck. Mixed with water to form a paste, it can be applied to the affected areas. On the other hand, if you want to use it internally, you should give it preventively with the food. However, start about 8 weeks before the mosquito season. Diatomaceous earth will help strengthen the tissues of the skin.

Get Used to the Eczema Blanket

Once you have obtained an eczema blanket for your horse, practice wearing it in small steps. After all, such a blanket is completely different from a normal rain or sweat blanket. It’s best to stay calm and patient. Train consistently and step by step. The same of course also applies to wound treatment or other treatment steps.

If you want to improve your feeding, it is best to ask your veterinarian or animal healer for advice. In addition, you should carry out a possible change in food slowly. This can minimize the risk of colic.

A little tip: if you use itch-relieving agents on the mane comb, let your horse stretch its neck. The horse’s neck is longer than when the head is raised and you can reach any point. You can achieve stretching, for example, by giving treats.

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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