Looking after your horse is going to be your number one priority. From providing them with the best horse food to ensuring they’re rugged and well enough for the cold weather, there are so many things to consider when it comes to their welfare. There is one health ailment that many horse owners come across each year and it can be hard to avoid sometimes, and that’s a sweet itch. Keep reading to find out what it is and how you can beat it this year. 

What Is Sweet Itch?

Sweet itch is fairly common among certain types of horses such as cobs and native ponies, and it’s caused by a reaction to insect bites. Insects are more prevalent in the warmer months, so you may notice your horse rubs more during the summer. When the insect bites a horse, the saliva can cause the skin to react badly. The immune system then begins to attack the horse’s cells which leads to a sweet itch. This reaction can also be called Equine Insect Bite Hypersensitivity too, but more often than not, you’ll see sweet itch being used. The sweet itch can affect any breed of horse, although studies have shown that some may actually be predisposed to experiencing it.

Signs To Look Out For

Typically, you’ll notice a sweet itch on the face and on the base of the tail and mane. However, horses can also be bitten elsewhere like on their back and belly, so it’s a good idea to check them all over just to be sure they haven’t rubbed themselves raw in other places. The horse’s response to the bites is to itch and they can rub themselves raw if the irritation is bad. You may see a change in your horse’s temperament as well, with them becoming agitated easily and they are likely to be swishing their tail and possibly stop to try and bite themselves to relieve the itching even when being ridden. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important you contact your equine vet so that they can advise on the right treatments and actions.

How To Combat Sweet Itch

It’s impossible to stop your horse from being allergic to insect bites, but there are ways you can help reduce the risk of it happening. One of the easiest ways is to invest in a sweet itch rug. These can help cover all the common places insects like to bite by providing a layer of protection. Bugs also love damp, warm places, so make sure that you keep your stable dry and try not to turn your horse out in paddocks that have ponds, rivers or lakes in them or nearby. 

Flies generally tend to accumulate near muck heaps and so as a general measure, keeping your horses stable as far from the muck heap as possible can also help to reduce the general presence of flies which may compound their irritation.  

You may find that stabling more in the summer is necessary to keep your horse away from the flies and maybe the best way you can apply creams and lotions that may help soothe and heal rubbed areas. 

Although sweet itch can’t be permanently cured, you can take steps to lessen the chance of it happening. It’s always best to keep an eye on the early signs as well so you can catch it before it gets worse. This way, you’ll ensure your horse is happy and content even during those pesky months when the sweet itch is most prevalent.