As seasoned veterans of the skin care wars Equiderma understands how tough the fight to protect your horse’s skin can be. Matter of fact, our flagship product, Equiderma Skin Lotion, was created for an Andalusian mare named Sahara with the worst case of sweet itch we’ve ever seen. Neither veterinary care or over the counter meds helped to alleviate Sahara's itching and through intensive research a star was born in the form of Equiderma Skin lotion. It saved Sahara and it can save your horse too from the suffering sweet itch can cause.
During the hot summer months it can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. Take heart, there are some simple steps you can take to keep your horse (and yourself) sane and comfortable all bug season long.
Does this sound familiar? You go to the paddock to bring in your horse and stop short when you see the mane looking like he got the bad end of a hair pulling fight. The tail doesn’t look much better. Looking more like a chrysanthemum than the silky and beautiful way you love to see it. Big patches have been rubbed off both areas and the skin is red and inflamed. As you check him over, you see the shoulder and chest are also rubbed raw and upon closer inspection you discover the mid-line of the belly is scabbed, sore and itchy. Uggg… Welcome to the world of Sweet Itch. As the bane of many horses existence, in the past it was a tough issue requiring constant vigilance. No worries... With Equiderma in your grooming arsenal you’ll breeze through sweet itch season like it was never an issue. Read on to find out how.
So, what is Sweet Itch?
You may have heard of Sweet Itch before, but until you experience it first hand, you’re not likely to understand what a problem it can be for you and your horse. This article will not only help you learn exactly what causes Sweet Itch but how to treat it (and more importantly prevent it). In simple terms, Sweet Itch is an allergic reaction to bug bites; however, it’s not quite that simple. The allergy is to a specific type of insect, the Culicoides, or biting midge. If you spend time near water in the spring and summer, you’re likely to be familiar with midges, or “no-see-ums” or sand gnats as they’re often called. They’re usually more of an annoyance than a source of discomfort as swarms of them get into your face and eyes, but their bites can spell real trouble.
According to the National Institute of Health1, there are over 1400 separate species of Culicoides midges, and they’re responsible for carrying several viruses which affect deer, cattle, sheep, and even humans.
With Sweet Itch, the pain and itching is caused by a reaction to the saliva of the biting midge as it feeds on your horse’s blood. Midges not only have scissor-like mouth parts to make small slices in your horse’s skin, their saliva prevents blood from clotting, meaning they can keep a fresh supply of blood for a longer period of time. Once that saliva interacts with your horse's blood, the allergic reaction begins. Histamines, the knights in shining armor of the immune system, travel to the location of the bite to ward off the foreign cells secreted in the midges’ saliva. One of the methods histamines use to oust the foreign invaders is to create an irritation
When you see your horse rubbing his mane or the top of his tail relentlessly, these biting midges should be your first suspect, although if the condition persists after treatment, check with your veterinarian to rule out parasites like Pinworms and Equine Neck Threadworms.
Sweet Itch rarely targets other areas on horses’ bodies, although insect bite allergies frequently appear along the midline of your horse’s belly, especially back near his “belly button”. They’re also responsible for the itchy, crusty rows that appear across your horse’s chest.
While pinworms and other parasites can cause tail rubbing, Sweet Itch tends to affect the mane as well as the tail. Patches of mane and tail are rubbed until the skin has open sores - meaning you’re dealing with the discomforts of itching, pain, and damaged skin. You need a plan to treat all of those symptoms, while at the same time addressing the root cause (the midges) and preventing a recurrence.
“Every summer Riley develops summer itch on his mane… tried manyproducts and methods to cure this problem … he still would rub his mane on trees and doorways, breaking it off…saw an ad on Facebook for Equiderma… tried it… in just 2 applications his skin was not sore or causing him to scratch it!”
Treatment and Prevention
As mentioned, there are a few needs to be addressed when treating Sweet Itch:
- Relieving the intense itching
- Healing the skin made raw from rubbing
- Growing back the mane and tail which help protect your horse from other insects, such as flies
“I totally love your skin lotion. It works wonders with horses that suffer with sweet itch.” A Happy Equiderma Customer
Outlined below is a 3-step system to help your horse get back to his happy, healthy self - complete with a full mane and tail.
- Step 1 - Clean: Washing the horse’s mane and tail, with careful attention to his crest and dock is critical. Using a shampoo that is gentle enough for raw skin while actually helping the healing process is the best way to start your treatment. Equiderma Sulfate-Free Neem & Arnica Shampoo covers all of those bases. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich shampoo helps calm the itching while healing the skin. It’s the perfect shampoo for regular bathing too because it helps maintain healthy skin and coat without harsh chemicals. Following up with Equiderma Neem & Castor Oil Conditioner adds an extra layer of goodness as the Neem, Castor Oil, Jojoba Oil and Vitamin E soften and condition the skin while helping your horse’s mane, tail, and coat shiny and silky.
- Treat: To relieve itching and promote healing, apply Equiderma’s Skin Lotion daily until the condition has cleared up. This lotion will calm the itching, heal the skin, and help regrow the mane and tail. This lotion is a must to keep in your tack box - it treats rain rot, cannon crud, bug-bitten-bellies, elbow scurf, and other bacterial or fungal skin issues. You’ll be amazed how quickly your horse will look and feel better!
- Prevent. We mentioned at the beginning of this article that Sweet Itch is preventable - and here are a few tips to make that happen. Controlling your horse’s environment can help. If you have the ability, keep him in during the dusk and dawn hours - those are the midges are at their peak feeding times. You can also use an effective insect repellent, like Equiderma Neem & Aloe Fly Spray. With Neem, Aloe, Lemongrass, Citronella, and other essential oils, this spray repels and controls not only flies and mosquitos, but the biting midges that cause Sweet Itch. Used regularly, it will even decrease the number of flies around your barn because the Neem will prevent fly larvae from maturing. Equiderma Neem & Aloe Fly Spray was tested in the Florida Everglades, so you know it will work for your horses.
Remember, at the beginning of this article, we told you that Sweet Itch is preventable. We hope you’re reading this before you learn about it first hand. If not, you’ve got a proven plan to attack the itching and discomfort, promote healing, and prevent recurrences. Sweet Itch is definitely a situation where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We’re sure your horse would agree.