WHAT IS SWEET ITCH?Sweet Itch is the layman's term for a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to the saliva of biting insects. Their bites can spell real trouble for your horse. The intense itchiness can cause self inflicted harm as your horse rubs away patches of hair, leaving the skin underneath raw and weeping. The allergy is most specific to the Culicoides fly, often called midge, sand gnat, or no-see-um, but black flies, deer flies and mosquitoes can contribute to the problem as well. In severe cases, your horse may become stressed, restless and thin, spending more time scratching than eating.
Sweet itch reactions can occur anywhere on your horse’s body but are most often seen on the underside of the belly, under the mane, or the dock of the tail.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What age does Sweet Itch start?
Horses can develop Sweet Itch at any age when exposed to the saliva of Culicoides.
2. Does Sweet Itch get worse?
Yes. Midge bite allergies can get bad when left untreated.
3. Can Sweet Itch be cured?
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.
4. When does sweet itch season end?
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.
5. Is Sweet Itch hereditary?
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.