What Is Sweet Itch: Symptoms And Treatments For Summer Itching In Horses

So What Is Sweet Itch And Why Do Horses Suffer With It?

Sweet itch is defined as a hypersensitive reaction to specific allergens and molecules causing an extreme immune response in sensitized horses. There are multiple allergens involved.

The hypersensitivity response is mediated by an antibody produced by the horse's immune system which binds the allergens, causing a cascade production of histamine and cytokines which make the horse's skin inflamed and extremely itchy. Of these, histamine appears the most important in the initial phase of reaction.

Symtoms Of Sweet Itch In Horses

  • An allergic reaction develops at the site where the insects feed
  • The majority of affected horses will develop itching and lesions at the mane and the tail
  • Lesions appearing around the ears and head are also quite common.
  • These lesions are characterised by intense itching which results in rubbing and lots of trauma to the skin.

What Can I Do To Prevent Sweet Itch

There are lots of things you can do to prevent sweet itch in you horse.

  • Insecticides and repellant may be used (either on the horse or in their living space
  • barriers should be used. for example a good quality horse rug (anti itch rugs are best)
  • Fatty acid supplements and linseed oil may prove effective
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