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Tips for handling sweet itch in horses

Tips for handling sweet itch in horses
7 June 2016 | Margaret Wilson


Everybody enjoys the summer, BBQ’s, trips to the beach and ice-cream by the bucket! Summer time is not quite such an idyllic time of year for horses suffering with sweet itch.

Horses with sweet itch can be truly miserable during the summer months. In veterinary terminology sweet itch in horses is known as equine insect hypersensitivity or insect bite hypersensitivity. It is caused by a severe allergic reaction to the saliva of biting insects, primarily Culicoides species, midges and gnats but also possibly blackflies or deer flies. These insects are generally most active in the summer months leading to horses which are worse in summer and may be normal during the winter months.

Typically, the insects bite on the mane and tail of horses giving the characteristic appearance of horse with sweet itch rubbing away their mane and tail. It can also occur on other areas. The horses have intense itchiness and often scratch so much that they break the skin quite badly and bleed. Further scratching of the raw areas can lead to secondary infections along the affected areas.

How to Manage Sweet Itch in Horses

Although sweet itch has long been recognised in horses there is as yet no treatment but the research continues. While we await the miracle cure, management can improve the comfort and usefulness of affected horses. Management basically means keeping the horse and the midge apart! This may mean a change in environment, away from woods and waterways, or an all-horse encompassing rug to keep the insects away.

For horses that have started to itch it is important to soothe the itching and prevent secondary infections. Itchgard is an easy-to-use, soothing lotion with herbal extracts which brings relief to irritated manes and tails. It will help alleviate mane and tail itching following nuisance insect biting by calming inflamed skin.

Itchgard also has the added benefit of conditioners to help maintain mane and tail in tangle free condition. Always a bonus when you are running late for a show!

Apply and massage Itchgard thoroughly to affected areas. Use twice per day for first two weeks, and as required thereafter. Itchgard won’t stop the insects or the sweet itch but it will soothe irritated skin and used alongside clever management can ensure your horse gets back a full volume mane and tail with no itching under that great big rug. Because they are worth it!!

For further advice about Itchgard or any of the Foran Equine products please contact one of our nutritional experts.

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