Sweet itch (also known as summer itch or seasonal dermatitis) is believed to be an allergic reaction to the saliva of certain biting flies and the female culicodes midge, which can cause severe skin irritation. Sweet Itch symptoms include intense itching (you may see the affected horse spending hours rubbing against trees, fences, or anything else available). You will notice damage to the skin and hair especially down the mane, neck, back and dock of the tail base. In some cases the entire mane may be rubbed out along with the skin over the ears, neck, withers and tail. The skin on the horse becomes thickened, dry, rough and hairless. It is important to note that not all horses have an allergic reaction to the saliva of the midge.
About the Culicodes Midge
Midges are most active in the summer months, but can wreak havoc on your horse between the months of April – September.
Midges breed and prefer wet/muddy areas and compost type heaps so keeping your horse away from these type of areas is a must.
Midges are most active around dawn & dusk, keeping a horse prone to sweet itch stabled during these hours may help to protect the horse.
What can you do to protect your horse?
- Boost your horses immune system with probiotics.
- Add flaxseed to your horse’s diet. Research suggests that adding flaxseed to your horse’s diet can quiet the allergic response.
- Keep Fly Sheets on your horse to include the attached neck and tail guard.
- Fly spray twice daily, especially along the neck, topline and tail areas.
- Keep away from wet, muddy areas, etc…
- Keep horses stabled during peak hours if possible (using fans in the stable is a great way to deter the midge).
- Avoid Sweet Feeds – That includes, feed, treats and Spring Grasses.
- Apply natural remedies to the skin. Lavender and coconut oils will soothe the skin.
- Bathe the horse in a vinegar solution, don’t rinse off – this will balance the PH of the skin.
- Feed Bug Banish (apple cider vinegar and garlic) to make the horse less appealing to the midge.
- Neem Oil – A natural insecticide, can be added to fly spray and/or essential oil rub.
Essential Oils – Apply to base of entire mane and dock of tail 2 x daily
- 15 Drops Lavender – soothing & healing
- 30 Drops Peppermint – has the effect of numbing the itch
- 7 Drops Roman Chamomile – for skin & anxiety
- 6 Drops German Chamomile – anti-histaminic
- 5 Drops Yarrow – healing, anti-inflammatory
- 7 Drops Garlic – fight secondary infection
- Add to 150ml carrier oil such as Coconut Oil or Aloe Vera gel.
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