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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For as long as I've known "my" (he is really my trainers horse, but I consider him mine) thoroughbred gelding, he has had the WORST itchy-ness I've ever seen on a horse. There would be times where he would literally have NO hair on his belly and would have open sores from itching himself raw on his tummy. My trainer and I tried MANY different things, and nothing had ever worked (swat, medicated shampoo, skin so soft, microtek spray/shampoo, MTG, etc). We took him to the vet, and the vet never really gave a straight answer as to what it was. I'm moving soon and am going to be taking him with me, so I figured it was time to put a stop to his crazy itchiness and figure something out.

After years of trying, I FINALLY got him to stop itching AND his ENTIRE belly is (almost) completely covered in hair! I'm posting this just in case any of you have had problems with itchy horses and can't figure out what to do about it. What I do is spray him with diluted listerine (it sounds weird but it works!) and rub it into his itchy spots. Then I put hydrocortisone cream (the kind for people) and rubbed it into the spots that were hairless (these gradually decreased with time). He also has been receiving wheat germ oil and 3 scoops of ground flax in his nightly grain to help improve skin and coat conditions. Once a week I wash his tummy (I've been using Fungasol shampoo because it has tea tree oil in it) just because I put stuff on it every day and it builds up and can probably become irritating over time. And now the itchi-ness is gone! Success! If anybody else has a problem with itchy horses they should give this a try. Putting it on every day is the key part, I think. Now that he hasn't been itching as much, I've just been spraying the listerine on him.
 

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Interesting way to fix the itch. Ill keep what you did in mind if I ever come across with the same issue-good for you!
 
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For as long as I've known "my" (he is really my trainers horse, but I consider him mine) thoroughbred gelding, he has had the WORST itchy-ness I've ever seen on a horse. There would be times where he would literally have NO hair on his belly and would have open sores from itching himself raw on his tummy. ... He also has been receiving wheat germ oil and 3 scoops of ground flax in his nightly grain to help improve skin and coat conditions.
I have a mare that has similar problems and there have been times when her entire belly was raw and bloody from between her forelegs to her udder. She also rubbed out most of the hair on the dock of her tail and most of her mane. I think what my mare has and what your gelding may have too is called "Sweet Itch". As I understand it, sweet itch is caused by an allergic reaction to gnat bites that develops over time. My mare was about 18 years old when the sweet itch started and had never had any problems before.

I tried all kinds of things with my mare: Calm Coat, aloe, bag balm, calamine lotion, Listerine (didn't work for her), Campho-Phenique, some kind of nasty smelling liquid steroid-based crap the vet said to try. NOTHING worked. I finally read that ground flax seed is good for the skin, so I started adding a cup of freshly ground flax to her beet pulp once a day and just using lots of fly spray. I also coated the raw sores with Dr. Naylor's Udder cream (similar to Bag Balm but without all the menthol). It took a couple of months but her belly finally cleared up and actually grew hair again!

The ground flax is the KEY.
 

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Have you considered that the bugs/mosquitoes may have been chewing him up under there? Did you try wiping a good fly spray under there? I'll be he was really chewed up from the navel way up to where his legs meet. When I see my horses rubbing back and forth on bushes I know it's time to slather petroleum jelly (Vaseline). It protects the skin and lasts about 3 days. Cortisone cream thins the skin, it's more of a once or twice thing and no more than that.
 

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It seems to be a bad bug year for most of us and you're right- the sweet itch is really bad! I've also had good luck with switching from oil based to a water based fly spray, a 50/50 plain Listerine and water spray, and liberal amounts of Vaseline. I'm sooo ready for Fall and bidding goodbye to these bugs and itches!!
 

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Flax is the key! My mare was just like this. This was the first year she hasn't torn her belly up. She's still a little itchy and appreciates a good belly rub, but this is the first time she's not miserably itchy. IT was causing all sorts of behavioral issues too because she was so distracted by how uncomfortable she was.
I don't use much else besides Flax and Brewer's Yeast.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Have you considered that the bugs/mosquitoes may have been chewing him up under there? Did you try wiping a good fly spray under there? I'll be he was really chewed up from the navel way up to where his legs meet. When I see my horses rubbing back and forth on bushes I know it's time to slather petroleum jelly (Vaseline). It protects the skin and lasts about 3 days. Cortisone cream thins the skin, it's more of a once or twice thing and no more than that.
Yes, I did consider this, but even with fly spray and swat he was still itching himself raw! And even in the winter when there aren't nearly as many flies he still had major itchiness problems!

xlntperuvian: A whole cup of flax? Wow! Maybe I should give him a little bit more. He has only bee getting about 3 tablespoons a day with his grain.
 

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Do not feed raw flax seed without exposing it to high heat, ie boiling it. It contains arsenates which are in the arsenic family of poisons. The heat destroys this property. Powdered flax is safe as it has been exposed to high heat.
 

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Do not feed raw flax seed without exposing it to high heat, ie boiling it. It contains arsenates which are in the arsenic family of poisons. The heat destroys this property. Powdered flax is safe as it has been exposed to high heat.
Woah I've heard exactly opposite, boiling it causes the mixing of the two properties that causes cyanide. If you leave it unboiled the two pieces don't combine.
"People who boil or soak their flax seed often do so because they believe that otherwise the flax might contain harmful levels of cyanide, which is toxic. In truth, while the seeds do contain the two components necessary to create cyanide, they are in different parts of the seed. Ironically, it’s the contact with water that brings the two components together and causes the formation of cyanide. Soaking is actually the most dangerous way to feed flax."
Flax Seed: How and why to feed it | EQUINE Ink
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·

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If you can target itchiness/rubbing before there are any lesions, I have heard that washing (everyday... ugh...) with Head and Shoulders can work~
 

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Unfortunately this sort of itchiness is caused by an allergic reaction to bugs. So it's just impossible to avoid, frequent washing can help so long as you don't dry out the skin :S it's a tough balance.
I've found mixing witch hazel with Apple Cider Vinegar in a spray bottle I can spray it on - it definitely helps relieve the itch instantly. But ONLY do that if there aren't any open sores, it'll sting pretty terrible on anything open.
 

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I have been making my own bug spray with apple cider vinegar and pure citronella oil, it works very well also for both the bugs AND the itching. And I feed flax (whole seeds, raw). I used to grind it but then I read a study that concluded it makes no difference. Two of my horses rubbed big sections of their manes and tails out last summer, this year they have hardly rubbed at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Unfortunately this sort of itchiness is caused by an allergic reaction to bugs. So it's just impossible to avoid, frequent washing can help so long as you don't dry out the skin :S it's a tough balance.
It's a tough balance.....that's the understatement of the century! I found (after much trial and error, poor horse) washing once a week with a tee tree oil shampoo to be a good balance.

I've encountered a new problem this evening though. It happened yesterday and I ignored it thinking it was just a fluke. But now that its happened twice in a row I'm a little concerned. I went to put hydrocortisone cream in-between my geldings hind legs and he tried to kick me! He has never gave any indication of kicking me, ever, so I was quite surprised. He used to LOVE having there scratched, so I'm not quite sure what happened. Maybe that the skin is no longer itchy it is more sensitive now? I'm just afraid to stop putting the cream on in case he reverts back to itching again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks Katie! I might have to try that instead of buying fly spray from now on. Where do you usually purchase pure citronella oil from? I've heard many good things about apple cider vinegar.
 

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I am not actually sure but I suspect a lot of health food/natural food stores carry it. I purchased a fairly large vial of it at a garage sale, it says 100% natural and I only use a few drops in a bottle of spray. The vial is still 3/4 full so will definitely last the rest of the summer, and beyond. Plus it smells way better than the commercial sprays. I even like the vinegar smell, and have read that if it is used on them regularly it changes the Ph of their skin and the bugs do not find them attractive.
 

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xlntperuvian: A whole cup of flax? Wow! Maybe I should give him a little bit more. He has only bee getting about 3 tablespoons a day with his grain.
Since you are also feeding wheat germ oil you might not need as much flax. I have never given my mare wheat germ oil. I may have to try it! I'm also not certain I use a whole cup, I'll have to do a measurement to be sure.

Here's the link to the article about flax seed and skin conditions from The Horse Magazine. This article says that flax seed has no adverse side effects:

Flaxseed Might Help Fight Sweet-Itch | TheHorse.com
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I was using 3 tablespoons of flax on every grain feeding (once per day). He got a "pour" of the oil every feeding too. I know it's not very accurate, but he DID have the softest coat of any horse there(granted there aren't that many horses), so that had to count for at least something....:D
 
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