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Canteringleap 08-07-2012 07:08 AM

Sweet itch?
Does anyone have any hints and tips for someone dealing with a horse who has just been diagnosed with sweet itch?
She's coming up in large lumps as a result of insect bites, and rubbing her belly raw. She has a full body suit on the way also.

Anyone else had any successful ways of dealing with this problem?

She's hyper sensitive to fly spray also, which really just adds to the fun of all of this.
Its also only winter (5 weeks until spring!) and its already getting bad.

(This is for a friend at my barn, who started battling with this problem last year, resulting in several months out of work, and has been told sweet itch gets worse over time)

Thanks guys! any advice would be much appreciated :)

walkinthewalk 08-07-2012 07:34 AM

You're in New Zealand, so I'm not sure what all is available to you.

1. Here's the UK link that talks about keeping the horse inside at dusk and at dawn but she's in a boarding situation so that's probably not possible.

I honestly don't know if their Boett Blanket is successful. I know I first learned about sweet itch seven years ago from this website. They must be selling the blanket as the website has recently been updated.

The National Sweet Itch Centre and the Boett Blanket

2. Unless the horse has wide-open seeping sores, I would bath her in a medicated shampoo then rinse her in a mix of apple cider vinegar & water. 100% pure apple cider vinegar:-)

Zinc oxide is a huge help on open sores. In the U.S.A. zinc oxide can be found by itself or in diaper rash cream in any general store like WalMart or drugstores like WalGreens, CVA's, etc.

I would make a 50-50 mix of zinc oxide with whatever human antibiotic ointments you have available and dab the mix on the worst open sores - paying strict attention to the belly line.

It's a yukky mess and needs cleaned off the horse, then re-applied, every day:-)

If the horse's entire body is pretty much an open sore, I sure hope the vet gave your friend some sort of medication that can easily be applied to the entire body.

Here, in the U.S.A., double-dosing with pure Ivermectin has been successful in eliminating sweet itch IF the horse is showing signs of Onchocera worms, a/k/a neck threadworms.

They aren't really worms but microfiliae that burrow in the sking after the horse is bitten by Midge Flies.
Equine-Onchocerciasis in Horses

I'm probably not much help as, from what I've read, you folks across The Big Pond, have a horrendous time dealing with midge flies. Much much worse than we have:-(

fly123 08-07-2012 01:23 PM

Well I do have some advice for you. Depending on your boarding situation it will help to keep your horse in for most of the day. You also said you had the full body suit on the horse. Find a fly spray that works and if there's open wounds than use or make some medicated spray and also salve. Also for next season put your horse on immune strength supplement and there's several other things you can add to feed that will help. Make sure you do the whole deworming thing too. BTW do you have photos of your horse? How bad is it?

Canteringleap 08-07-2012 10:29 PM

@ walkinthewalk,

Yeah we have a really hard time over here with midges and nasty little things. Guess it makes up for the lack of snakes and deadly spiders though ;)
Thanks for the advice, will keep looking and check the link out!!

fly123, She's not my horse, a friend from my barn who's having a really hard time finding answers, as is the vet. Currently using homemade fly spray, which has helped quite a bit actually I believe. Looking into feeding choices to prep up for summer ;) Will try and get a photo of the rawness and some of the bumps. She's not open wounded, only small amounts are, the rest just looks like what bad cover rub looks like.

Left Hand Percherons 08-08-2012 12:19 AM

I question the diagnosis. How bad are the bug and now long have they been out? It's early. She sounds like my mare that was incorrectly diagnosed with sweet itch that we battled for a season. The treatment was actually making things worsr for her. Covering my mare up would trap the irritants against the skin and drive her crazy and depressed.

There are things you can try to make her more comfortable. Slather her ventral midline with petroleum jelly. It get's nasty but the bugs can't bite through it. You can mix it with hydrocortisone cream. Rub it in the mane as well. You can give her human grade generic Benadryl, 500Mg for 1000# horse, 2-3 times a day. If she's worse in the late afternoon, dose her around noon and at dinner. Giving her a dark stall to hide in with a fan on her will help alot.

I would look for other triggers outside of the bugs. Look at the diet and environment. Weeds, trees, grasses...
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