This week’s hot topic: Sweet Itch! With warm weather seemingly here to stay and flies soon to be out in full force, we took to our Facebook and Instagram pages for a chat about this common skin condition. If you’d like to find out more, you’re in the right place! From the questions we asked you, to the questions you wanted the answers to, it’s all here…
How many horses suffer from Sweet Itch?
Sweet Itch is one of the most common skin conditions affecting horses and ponies, maybe even more common than you might think! This seasonal ailment is rife between March and November, thought to impact around 5% of equines. That being said, over on our Instagram we asked you if your horse suffers from Sweet Itch, and the results were quite a shock! 540 of you responded and a huge 129 said their horse is affected by this condition.
What are the most common symptoms?
Naturally, our next question was ‘What symptoms does your horse present?’. Typically, horses with Sweet Itch will display clear signs of discomfort, though they can vary massively. 224 of you responded, with 135 saying that flare-ups caused their horses to rub. Hair loss was also common, while a swishing the tail and behaviour changes were more more.
How To Prepare
Next up, we asked how you get prepared for Sweet Itch season. The answer… Supplements! Almost all of the suggestions we received were related to adapting your horse’s diet to promote general wellbeing, skin health and coat condition. The products most frequently highlighted included; Apple Cider Vinegar, Linseed, Garlic and Brewers Yeast. Take a look at their properties and how they might help put a stop to scratching for your horse…
How To Prevent
Prevention is always better than cure! Caused by a reaction to the proteins in the saliva of biting insects, the key to keeping your horse comfortable during the warmer months is to fight the flies! This is a constant battle and any lapses can prove costly. Thankfully though, there’s a whole host of products that can help, including; Fly Masks, Rugs and Sprays.
It’s not all about keeping your horse covered up or drenching them in fly sprays. Avoiding wet fields, steering clear of trees, poo picking regularly and turning out on windy days are all measures that can help too.
Your Sweet Itch Questions Answered
Q. Are some breeds more likley to have Sweet Itch?
A. Any horse, pony or donkey can suffer from Sweet Itch. Sadly though, it’s thought that Belgian Warmbloods, Icelandic horses and native ponies are at a higher risk. Research has shown that this is likely down to genetics.
Q. Is there a long-term treatment for Sweet Itch?
A. If your horse suffers from Sweet Itch, the saliva of flies causes the immune system to attack the body’s own cells. This results in extreme discomfort, which none of us want for our horses. When dealing with this condition in the long term, being prepared really is the only solution.
To help with this, we’d recommend Z-Itch. An authorized veterinary medicinal product, it’s formulated with permethrin, especially for the control of Culicoides spp (midges). Before application, weigh your horse for the appropriate dosage. Measure out the solution by loosening the cap and squeezing the bottle until the chamber contains the desired amount. This should then be poured over the mane and rump, avoiding the head and saddle areas. For most horses, one treatment a week is enough to manage the condition effectively.
Q. When is there going to be a vaccine for Sweet Itch?
A. Over recent years, we’ve all seen just what a difference vaccinations can make! Unfortunately however, they can’t be developed over night! In 2021 it was reported that a Swiss research team was working on a vaccine, which was showing great promise. That being said, this isn’t available yet. In truth, it could take a long time before a vaccine becomes accessible to owners like you and I.
We hope you’ve found this information useful. If you have a question that we haven’t answered, add it to the comments and we’ll get back to you! To get involved and have your say, join us on Facebook or Instagram for Let’s Chat Tuesday, where we cover a new topic each week.