Itch Remedies for Horses

Itching in Horses

Itching in horses can be due to numerous reasons, including:

  • Allergy/Eczema
  • Worms (itching at the base of the tail)
  • Mange
  • Lice

Protect and Treat Skin, Coat and Manes

You should start using a product that will ease itching and protect sensitive skin as soon as your horse starts rubbing its tail or mane. It is advisable to use a special shampoo and wash the tail and manes thoroughly, to provide relief from the itching. This treatment can help you avoid a vicious cycle in which the itching drives your horse to rub its tail or mane, and in turn causes skin irritation and itching.

Equine Summer Eczema - Sweet Itch

If your horse is suffering from itching around the base of their tail, manes, hair whorl, and in some cases the midline of the belly, during grazing season it could indicate the presence of equine eczema. Equine summer eczema is a result of an allergic reaction to the saliva left by insect bites, particularly bites from Culicoides biting midges, also known as "no-see-ums". These bites lead to extreme itching, redness and swelling in sensitive horses.

Causes of Equine Summer Eczema

Genetic Factor

Horses that develop sweet itch may have a genetic predisposition to the disease, as the condition is more common in certain families and breeds, such as Friesian horses, Icelandic horses, Shetland ponies and Welsh ponies. The breeding of horses that suffer from equine summer eczema is highly discouraged.

Environmental Factors

The "no-see-ums" are most active during sunrise and sunset, high temperatures, relatively high humidity and the absence of wind. Formerly, equine summer eczema did not occur in coastal areas, however, changes in landscape have contributed to the rise in occurrence. The addition of trees and hedges along coastal regions offer more shelter from the wind for these bugs, and the vicinity of still water and overall temperatures provide better breeding conditions. There might be other reasons that the Culicoides biting midges have shown a change in behaviour over recent years, however, these are currently unknown

Protein

It is possible that proteins play an important part in the allergic reaction in general, not specifically for equine summer eczema. It is advisable to change your horse's diet to one that has a limited amount of protein.

Equine Summer Eczema Treatment

Unfortunately, it is not possible to cure the allergic reaction. The most effective prevention method is to ensure that your horse does not come into contact with the Culicoides biting midges; for example, by only letting sensitive horses/ponies out of the stables a significant amount of time after sunrise and putting them back considerably before sunset. Additionally, there are numerous types of horse rugs that will give your horse extra protection when they are outside. Besides preventing equine summer eczema, there are many types of products that may help treat symptoms of summer itch, such as itching. It is important to start treatment early on in the season, preferably before mosquitoes start to appear, this will give better results than starting treatment once symptoms have started.

Unfortunately, there is not a single product that relieves itching for all horses. It is advisable to try different products with different ingredients and see what your horse responds best to. If, despite treatment, tail and mane rubbing becomes worse, please contact your veterinarian.

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