Itching Mystery - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 31 Old 03-18-2017, 06:03 PM Thread Starter
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Itching Mystery

Hi there,

my mare has always been mildly allergic to flies. Between fly spray and sheets, I've always been able to keep it to the bare minimum. She gets a few bites here and there, can get very itchy, but has never rubbed hair off. The mosquitoes, when we rarely have them, will eat her alive, so I have to double all my prevention/control at those times.

Anyway, I started feeding powdered garlic. We aren't in full blown fly season yet, but the midges/gnats and the barn flies are out. I have not found a single bite on her, even though some of the barn flies still hang around on the horses, they have not bitten. I was really excited about this. EXCEPT that she is still mildly itchy! No bites, no rubs or scratch marks, but she will still rub her neck/shoulder on fence and chew herself a bit.

This is only her neck and shoulder area. She does not itch anywhere else. Mainly it is right where the neck ties in to the shoulder.

I just looked up sweet itch, thinking it might be that, but apparently that is more common on the hindquarters and over the whole body, instead of just being localized to neck/shoulder/chest.

Her coat is in perfect condition. I mean perfect. Not a single bite, scratch, or rub mark.

Any ideas what it might be?
And if anyone has any topical ointments/sprays that might help calm the skin and stop her itching, I would like to hear about those as well.

When I have the vet out for spring checkup/shots, I may have some tests done, just to see what this is.

"You can do something wrong for thirty years and call yourself experienced, you can do something right for a week and experience more than someone who spent thirty years doing the wrong thing." ~WhattaTroublemaker
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post #2 of 31 Old 03-18-2017, 06:29 PM
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She's not itchy cause she's shedding is she? And some horses are just itchier than others. How's her skin, is it dry?

Glad you're seeing results with the garlic. I have a mare with severe sweet itch and it's not fun!

There's also no way to tell if the horse literally has no bites. If she has (mild) sweet itch or another allergy even one bite could make her itch.

I wouldn't worry too much about it and just keep on doing what you're doing for now.
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post #3 of 31 Old 03-18-2017, 06:50 PM Thread Starter
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She has mostly shed out now. I spray her off at least once a week to help with the process as well. She looks really good overall. I can't find evidence of dry skin. She doesn't even have any dandruff, which she used to always have.

I'd never tried the garlic before. It's not literally keeping every fly off, like I said they still hang around. BUT no bites. I'll know for sure if it is worth it if we go another month and still no bites. Not sure if it is worth it to keep the other mare with no allergies on it.

I've looked into some topical sprays. The herbal ones, which have good reviews, use tea tree, eucalyptus, and lavender in canola oil. I'm going to try eucalyptus and oregano in coconut oil, since that's what I have on hand. I've had good success making my own fly spray, so I figure this is worth a shot.
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post #4 of 31 Old 03-18-2017, 07:12 PM
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Sounds like a good plan, just be careful not to attract more flies!

I would also be doing something like that. Our vet recommended neem spray for the small animals. Haven't used it on horses but I'd probably start with something like that.

I also feel a little like if an animal has a chronic issue they start to expect stuff. So maybe she felt some flies land and now she thinks she's itchy?

Regardless I would continue to do as you're doing.
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post #5 of 31 Old 03-19-2017, 11:04 AM
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Watch how much garlic you feed. It can cause Heinz body anemia in hroses


The Great Debate: Feeding Garlic To Horses - Horse&Rider | Western Training - How-To - Advice
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post #6 of 31 Old 03-19-2017, 11:18 AM
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I have an itchy horse who does well on an antihistamine.
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post #7 of 31 Old 03-19-2017, 04:18 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Smilie View Post
Watch how much garlic you feed. It can cause Heinz body anemia in hroses


The Great Debate: Feeding Garlic To Horses - Horse&Rider | Western Training - How-To - Advice
I read the article. It's the same kind I found when I did my research. The writer referenced a study where they fed an entire pound of onion per day, and then as much as four pounds a few days later. That is far more of a quantity than anyone in their right mind would feed.
Mine get 3/4 of a tablespoon of powdered garlic per day. So it's barely anything. I have suspicions that powdered garlic is less potent/dangerous than the raw as well. After all, it is used in many commercial feed through fly reprellent/control supplements.

Regardless, I am keeping a close eye on them. If the amount I'm feeding now doesn't make any effect, I'm not going to bother upping dosage. I'll just stop feeding it and try something different. Definitely not worth any risk.

UPDATE: I forgot to make the spray I was talking about so didn't have it today. I went out and I did find a couple very small bites on her chest. I watched her while I was doing barn chores and she didn't seem terribly itchy. I don't think I saw her scratch or chew one time. However she does seem more twitchy/irritated when a fly lands on her as compared to the other two horses at the barn.
I brushed on a bit of a liquid liniment solution I have onto her chest, shoulders, and lower neck. It has aloe in it, among other herbs. Maybe it will help her feel more comfortable, maybe not. I just wanted to try it since I forgot the spray. Might as well use it for something (it was a gift from old BO this past Christmas. It's the Absorbine Botanicals body rinse).

I'd LOVE to find a way to get out of having to use the fly sheet. Because I don't want her to have to wear it overnight, it would mean running out a second time each day. (I do self care, but only go out once per day. This is because I have a slow feed system where they have hay 24/7. So when I go out, I just water, muck, supplement, and fill feeders as needed).
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post #8 of 31 Old 03-19-2017, 04:26 PM
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Something else you can try, far as 'natural fly control, is to use yellow sulfer salt blocks
Some people swear by them, but have not looked into any true efficacy studies
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post #9 of 31 Old 03-19-2017, 04:38 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Smilie View Post
Something else you can try, far as 'natural fly control, is to use yellow sulfer salt blocks
Some people swear by them, but have not looked into any true efficacy studies
Interesting thanks! I'll look into it.

The last full care barn I was at, the lady did feed through fly control. It inhibits the breeding of the flies in the manure. It did work, that barn had the fewest flies I've ever seen. However, where I'm at now, it would not work, because for that to work you have to have all the horses in the area on it. And not only is there one other boarder at my barn, but there is a 12 horse boarding stable across the fence and two other facilities across the street. Fly Predators will not work because of this situation as well.

So if it's feed through, it has to be something that will repel the flies off the horses themselves, and not the manure.

"You can do something wrong for thirty years and call yourself experienced, you can do something right for a week and experience more than someone who spent thirty years doing the wrong thing." ~WhattaTroublemaker
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post #10 of 31 Old 03-19-2017, 10:15 PM
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"However she does seem more twitchy/irritated when a fly lands on her as compared to the other two horses at the barn."

I think that's to be expected as she KNOWS flies = bad. And some horses without fly issues are also super sensitive like that.

I think maybe she just had a few bites that couldn't be seen.
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