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Saddle-up Answers - Sweet Itch


Sweet Itch has different names - depending on where you live (Queensland Itch, Summer Itch, Summer Eczema and Seasonal Dermatitis..  It is caused by an allergic reaction to the bite of the Culicoides flies (also called midges and ‘no-see-ums’).  

The flies are in fact a very small midge that breed son wet land, and around rivers, lakes and standing water.   They are most active in the morning and the evening.  Although they can 'irritate' all horses, not all horses develop the allergic reaction.  Those that do suffer weeping blisters, followed by crusting, scabs and scaling.  There is constant  rubbing and biting which results in hair loss and damage to the skin.  
There are many treatments but the most effective is to protect your horse from the midge bites.  This can be done by keeping it stabled from mid-afternoon until mid-morning (although in some areas the midges do NOT appear to watch the clock!) or by using an effective fly sheet combined with insect repellents.  There are also feed supplements available that are claimed to assist in controlling this condition.

There is a steroid injection available but is a desperate last resort as it will predispose to Laminitis (to such a degree that one experienced Vet told Saddle-up: "if I hear of a horse being treated in this way and then developing Laminitis, I'd be happy to give evidence against the vet concerned in a damages claim.)


Readers' Responses

Lena writes:
My horse has Sweet itch and I've tried many different repellents, creams etc. They only last for a short while. I bought my first Boett blanket four years ago and it really has given my horse a good protection from the flies and midges. He can now enjoy the summer in the field (if it has been raining a lot during the day I still stable him in the evening before the midges come out). I can just recommend you to buy one yourself.

JC writes
I have used a Boett Blanket - on a fairly mild case of Sweet-Itch.  I found it to be effective, especially for the mane area, less so for the tail. My horse used to stand with his head in a bush to escape the midges, he didn't do that once he had the Blankett on, and if I had to take it off during the day for repair or washing, he was so pleased to get it back on!  Although very easy to repair (and the suppliers were extremely helpful regards supplying spare fabric etc), it did spend quite a lot of time on the sewing machine, as it will tear on trees and the like. I don't have barbed wire in my field, but goodness knows what that would do to one! They say it would last a gelding two years - my lad wasn't particularly big or rough, but I don't reckon it would have done a second complete summer. Some insurance companies will allow you to claim for them. Mine wouldn't (Agricultural Insurers) as they said it was a prevention not a treatment!

I found Ainsworths, the Homeopathic Suppliers very helpful, and I also found Equine America's ItchNoMore to be the most effective topical solution to use. I did try numerous others, some very expensive, and some which claimed to paralyze the jaws of the midge, break its breeding cycle, last a week etc, but none of them were effective enough to justify the expense of using them in the sort of amounts I would have needed to control the problem. ItchNoMore was very good, and I also found it great diluted as a general fly repellant which I use on my other non-sweet itch horses.

Hope this helps! Don't use the cortisone/steroid injection -laminitis is worse than the problem you are trying to solve!

 

   

Information about sweet itch on the internet.
The National Sweet Itch Help Line
(Suppliers of the Boett blanket)

Sweet Itch

 

The Boett Blanket


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