Sweet Itch (Culicoides Hypersensitivity)

Relieve your horse's itching, promote healing, and prevent recurrences

As seasoned veterans of the skin care wars, Equiderma understands your fight to protect your horse's skin. 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. Because of Sahara, a proven treatment for sweet itch was born.

During the hot summer months, it can feel like you're fighting a losing battle against the insects feeding on your horse. The resultant self-harm to relieve the itch can be a heartbreaking and frustrating experience for both of you. Take heart, there are some simple steps you can take to keep your horse (and your self) sane and comfortable all bug season long.

Sweet Itch (or Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD) is the layman's term for a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to insect bites. The allergy is most specific to the Culicoides fly, often called midge, sand gnat, or no see-um although black flies, deer flies and mosquitoes can contribute to the cause as well. Their bites can spell real trouble for your horse. Culicoides are very small biting flies that are particularly active from dusk to dawn. They breed in standing water such as ponds, lakes, wet areas around the wash rack, water trough or buckets left with standing water. They are poor fliers, flying only short distances and not against the wind. There are over 1400 separate species of Culicoides and it is common to have more than one species feeding off your horse. Each species has a favored feeding site. Some prefer the midline of the belly, others enjoy the mane and tail, whole others prefer the lower limbs, ears, face, neck, and rump. Their saliva prevents blood from clotting and this keeps a fresh supply of blood readily available and serves as an attractant. The lesions consist of raised bumps that crust over and induce severe itching. This itching frequently leads to a secondary bacterial infection. Culicoides bite allergy is considered the most common cause of severe itching in horses but beyond hypersensitivity, Culicoides is also the cause of Onchocerca - neck threadworm. Keeping these insects from feeding on your horse is far more important than just stopping the itch.

With Sweet Itch, pain and itching are caused by an intense histamine reaction to the saliva as the midges feed off your horse. Histamines are part of the bodies defense system and act like bouncers at a club. They rush in to help your horse's body get rid of something that's bothering them -- in this case saliva of the Culicoides fly. This reaction is the cause of your horse's itch. The intention is good, but an overreaction results in pure misery for your horse.

Sweet Itch Treatment & Prevention: How to Stop Sweet Itch in Horses

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:

  1. Clean: Washing the horse, with careful attention to his crest, dock, ventral midline or any other affected areas is critical. Using a shampoo that is gentle enough for raw skin while encouraging the healing process is the best way to start your treatment. Equiderma Neem Shampoo covers all those bases. Our anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich shampoo helps soothe the skin and calms the itching while amplifying healing of 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 Conditioner adds an extra layer of goodness as the Neem, Castor Oil, Jojoba Oil and Vitamin E further amplifies healing and calming of inflamed skin.

  2. Treat: To stop the insect from coming back to feed, relieve itching and heal the secondary bacterial infection, apply Equiderma Skin Lotion daily until the the skin is healed. Your horse will immediately gain relief but most importantly the cycle of feeding will be stopped. Insects will not go near the area when Equiderma Skin Lotion is present. If your horse is prone to this condition keeping a good covering of skin lotion over the area will prevent it from starting or continuing.

  3. Protect: Use Equiderma Neem & Aloe Herbal Horse Spray. With Neem, Aloe, Lemongrass, Citronella, and other essential oils, this spray repels the Culicoides, flies and mosquitoes. Use it regularly around your barn and over time the population of biting insect will decrease. Any insect that meet with even a micro droplet of no longer be able to feed, breed or mature.

Equiderma Before & After Photos


Equiderma Treatment F.A.Q.

Q: What age does Sweet Itch start?

A: Horses can develop Sweet Itch at any age when exposed to the saliva of Culicoides.

Q: Does Sweet Itch get worse?

A: Yes. See below for examples of how bad midge bite allergies can get when left untreated.

Q: Can Sweet Itch be cured?

A: Unfortunately no, not yet. There is immunotherapy available for midge bite allergies that has been shown to cause a 50% improvement in 70% of horses with Sweet Itch. Discuss this option with your vet.

Q: When does sweet itch season end?

A: With the temperatures tending to drop in October, generally, we see the mass reduction of midges which means that horses that suffer from Sweet Itch begin to show signs of improvement during this time.

Q: Is Sweet Itch hereditary?

A: It is thought that sweet itch is hereditary and stress (for example moving a horse to a new home), sickness or severe injury can increase the risk of more mature horses developing the condition. Certain breeds like Welsh ponies, Icelandic horses, and Shires are predisposed to the condition meaning it is likely inherited.

Customer Testimonials

Don't just take our word for it - here's what some of our customers have to say:

"FINALLY! Sweet Itch GONE! - I have 7 horses who are now much more comfortable since using Equiderma Fly Spray as well as all their products. Destiny was a wild horse rescued from Colorado, and since she's been on the East Coast, she has had terrible sweet itch every year. Her tail is rubbed off to the skin, bleeding and miserable. She's had 5 vets look at her, every type of lotion, medications, anti-itch, etc. and nothing works. Now that I am using Equiderma, she has comfort, no more rubbing off her tail, and a much happier horse and owner! I have been recommending these products to ALL of my horse friends. No more welts on the horses from flies and we are experiencing less tick invasion as well." Santana H.
"Rosie's Peace Restored! - My NV mustang, Desert Rose aka Rosie tends to get 'sweet itch' when bitten by certain flies, and we experience agonizing itching- hers physically and mine in empathy! Since we started using the Equiderma spray, she is being bothered much less by those annoying flies, and our time together is spent doing happier and more pleasant things!" Janet G.
"Love your products! - Brandy has been plaqued by skin problems her whole life: sweet itch, insect allergies, scratches, possibly threadworm. Every summer she itches and scratches, rubbing on anything she can find. I have tried several different treatments, all with little to moderate success until Equiderma. One shampoo cleared up 90% of her skin lesions! Then using the lotion, zinc and the fly spray daily or even every other day kept her the most comfortable I have ever seen her in the summer with the bonus of a lovely glimmering coat!" Melanie B.
Worth every penny! - "I tried the product on my sweet 19 yo mare who really suffers from the noseeums. She gets terrible inflammation and sores from them, and last summer was on Dex for months, and in a fly sheet, and slathered with tons of different pastes, antibacterial ointment, hydro-cortisone spray, etc. I've had the fly spray and the skin lotion for about a week. Using the spray each day and the lotion about three times has made an amazing difference for this mare. Her crusty belly is almost completely healed and inflammation is gone. I no longer see her rollling and laying down to itch her belly and constantly stomping, tail switching and shaking her head. I bought this stuff only for her, but pretty sure I'm gonna get the fly spray for my other two. I also like that I can put it on myself too!! Really great stuff and worth every penny." Jennifer C.
Storm loves Equiderma Products! - Storm suffers from Sweet Itch for years and I have tried everything and nothing worked.. .the best relief he has gotten has been from me starting to use the Equiderma products!" Kim M.
Miracle product for horses! - "It's not often I find a product that's so awesome that I feel the need to share my experience, but I have found a miracle product for horses! This year, for some reason (it wasn't a problem last summer) 2 of the horses on my farm are getting eaten alive by gnats. Obviously they have a serious allergy to the little monsters. It's so bad that they had sores on their belly, chest and had rubbed their tails completely off at the top. They scratch on the fence constantly. I had the vet look at them who laughed and said "good luck with that, they'll destroy your fence". He said other than fly spray and Swat there really wasn't anything else to do but pray for fall to get here. It's too hot for fly sheets, they'll die of a heat stroke, so that's not an option. I have used gobs of fly spray, Swat, supplements containing garlic and brewers yeast, antihistamines, MTG, Desitin, YOU NAME IT....and nothing was fixing it. It might relieve the itch for a bit, but it wasn't healing the sores. I finally tried the Equiderma Skin Lotion. I honestly figured it was yet another "snake oil in a bottle". I wish I had taken before photos, but just 3 days ago I began putting this lotion on his chest, under his belly and on the top of his tail and I swear to you as of this morning he is completely healed! The sores are gone 100%! He just needs to grow the hair back, but I haven't seen him scratch on the fence since applying the lotion 3 days ago. The other horse, Daisy, has a bottle on the way so I know her misery is about to come to an end as well. I just ramble about this because if any of you are having the same problem, go buy a bottle of Equiderma Skin Lotion. I'm going to try it on my dog that seems to have a grass allergy and has a raw belly." Ashley M.
No other product comes close - "Healed my pony's raw sweet itch skin in a week. One bath with the shampoo, daily skin lotion and she's almost completely healed. No other product has even come close." Anna C.
Rubs until she's bloody -  "I have a pony that always gets itchy from bugs and rubs her hair off every year. This is the first year I have tried Equiderma products. I love them. Cookie looks great. She usually rubs until she is bloody. None of that this season. Highly recommend Equiderma." Dina P.

Product Recommendations