Many horses suffer from an allergic reaction to biting insects. This can cause an intense reaction known as Sweet Itch or, more formally, Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis or Equine Insect Bite Hypersensitivity. It is the most common allergic skin condition in horses and is extremely unpleasant for those affected.
The West of Scotland is one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Aside from unreliable weather, the only drawback is the dreaded Scottish midge. Luckily, we can retreat indoors but the souvenir bites can cause unrelenting itching for a long time after. Horses are just the same and can find the itch almost unbearable.
Signs of Sweet Itch in Horses
Some horses are susceptible to a reaction to insect bites. Just like humans, some suffer more than others.
Sweet Itch will often be focused on the neck, mane, and tail. However, it is not restricted to those areas and in many cases, they will suffer from the Itch wherever the insects can bite. In the worst cases, the horse will rub or bite any areas it can reach.
The signs of Sweet Itch are usually due to two main factors:
- A skin reaction to the bite which can appear inflamed or hot to the touch.
- Damage to the skin caused by the horse attempting to relieve the itching. This can include hair loss and bleeding or even a thickening of the skin.
Regular grooming will help to identify changes to the skin and help to identify the problem quickly.
What to look out for:
- Constant scratching. Who doesn’t love a good scratch? But this is different. The horse will be trying to bite the affected area or scratch it on anything available. This can cause the area to be red, inflamed, and even show hair loss and bleeding.
- Discomfort. It might be that the only way to try to reach those hard-to-reach areas is to constantly roll in the field or scratch with their hind hoof.
- Changing behaviours. Understandable! This might be seen with increased lethargy, excessive grooming between horses, and excessive head shaking to try to get rid of the wee biting blighters.
How to treat Sweet Itch?
Unfortunately, there are no absolute cures for Sweet Itch. As with midge bites on humans, it is better to avoid getting them in the first place but when bitten, ease the irritation and reduce the distress of the reaction to the bite.
To avoid the horse getting bitten by flies and midges, options include speciality horse rugs and supplements. Good housekeeping can also help:
Can horse rugs help Sweet Itch?
There is a wide range of rugs and blankets on the market that offers protection against midges and flies. It is important to cover all areas and to be light and airy to stop the horse from getting too sweaty.
Can food supplements prevent insect bites?
Some supplements are known to provide some help in reducing the itching and making the horse more comfortable. Unfortunately, the effects can be limited and will vary from horse to horse.
- Omega 6/3 fatty acids have been shown to be effective in reducing itching so it may be worth feeding flax seed or evening primrose oil in case this offers some relief.
- Brewers Yeast is linked with soothing skin discomfort and might be worth trying.
- Garlic helps to stimulate the immune system and is available in either powders or granules.
Reduce the number of insects
Regular mucking out stalls of manure and trampled hay can make a huge difference in reducing the number of biting insects. The same goes for old water and feed. Standing water can be a breeding ground for midges. Reducing the opportunity for the blighters to breed can make a huge difference.
Chloripet can help ease the irritation of Sweet Itch
The active ingredient in Chloripet is the same as is produced by the white blood cells of all mammals. It is one of nature’s most powerful disinfectants and will destroy viruses, bacteria, fungi, and spores within seconds. It does so without using any hazardous or toxic chemicals.
Chloripet will ease the irritation of insect bites and help with any infected skin. If the horse has been overly scratching the Itch, Chloripet can be used to clean the wound and stop any infection from taking hold. It will also soothe the site and help with the irritation.
Chloripet holds veterinary approvals (EN14675 & EN1656) and will help with all cuts, scrapes, and even post-operative wounds. Using Chloripet will clean, destroy bacteria, and promote the healing process. It is worth noting that Chloripet is:
- Non-toxic and not harmful if ingested.
- 100% biodegradable – contains no harsh chemicals, alcohol, or toxins.
- Safe to use near eyes and ears.
It’s worth remembering that each horse reacts differently. There might be a bit of trial and error to reduce Sweet Itch for your particular horse and it might be that a combination of solutions might work best. We are confident that whatever combination works for you and your horse, Chloripet will be at the heart of it.