Sweet Itch Products
Sweet Itch is one of those conditions that is very painful and almost debilitating for the horses and ponies that suffer from it. Sweet Itch is caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva from the bite of the Culicoides Midge and sometimes the Simulium Black Flies. The scratching and skin inflammation that is common with Sweet Itch is caused by the body’s own immune system reacting to the saliva and producing an excess of histamine and other inflammatory mediators. Because Sweet Itch is caused by an allergic reaction within the body there is currently no cure for it, however it can be managed and knowing the causes of Sweet Itch allows us to be able to try and reduce the severity of the reaction.
Sweet Itch may or may not be hereditary, but there are also environmental factors that increase the severity of the reaction. The recent veterinary thinking indicates that Sweet Itch in older horses may be triggered by stress. The research that shows an improvement in symptoms in horses fed brewers yeast and flaxseed to improve the conditions with the digestive system would back this up.
The symptoms of Sweet Itch are fairly obvious, but can be of varying severities. The most common symptoms are skin lesions and ridges that can be found at the base of the mane and top of the tail. However, any skin the midges bite is at risk of becoming inflamed, sore and itchy. The problem can often be made worse by secondary skin infections caused by bacteria and dirt entering the body through the broken skin.
Similarly to mud fever, with Sweet Itch prevention is definitely better than cure!
Preventing Sweet Itch, however, is easier said than done especially with the milder, wetter winters that we have here in the UK. Midges love wet, boggy, stagnant water as this is where they breed, if you have a horse or pony with Sweet Itch it is recommended that, if possible, land is well drained or they are kept well away from these areas. The midge also prefers woodland/sheltered areas to exposed ground and interestingly cannot fly against winds greater than 5mph. It is also much more active at dawn and dusk.