Sweet Itch is an allergic reaction by horses to the saliva of the biting midge Culicoides. Previously prevalent in ponies in the northern hemisphere, Sweet Itch is becoming more and more widespread.
Culicoides is a blood-sucking midge found in wet, marshy areas or in dew or raindrops during the summer months.
Once the horse is bitten, small intensely itchy lumps appear on the skin, usually along the horse’s back, belly, mane and tail. Because they are so itchy, the horse will often develop secondary skin eruptions and infections after vigorously rubbing or biting the itchy lumps.
The important thing to remember when dealing with Sweet Itch is, if your horse is prone, try to use preventative measures such as:
- Keep the horse stabled during dawn, dusk and hot, humid days
- Use an effective fly repellent
- Feed herbs which strengthen the immune system and cleanse the blood – eg. Garlic, Kelp, Echinacea (Immune mix from The Herbal Horse contains these herbs)
If your horse already has Sweet Itch, the following may help (always remember to check any alternative remedies with your vet):
- Garlic, Kelp and Echinacea will help speed recovery
- Apple Cider Vinegar can be given internally (30 ml per day) as well as used as a rinse externally (2 tablespoons in a litre of water). Do not use the rinse if the lesions are rubbed open, as the vinegar will sting.
- On open lesions, apply an ointment containing calendula or propolis.
- A homeopathic remedy called Culicoides midge, made from the midge itself be helpful. Consult a homeopath to prescribe this.