Sweet Itch Information and Management

Sweet itch is a seasonal skin complaint that can affect all types of horse. Also known as Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD), sweet itch affects approximately 5% of UK horses, but this percentage is often higher in hotter countries such as Australia, where up to 40% of horses are affected.

Sweet itch is essentially an immune system issue caused by delayed hypersensitivity to insect bite saliva. Not unlike hay fever, sweet itch is effectively a seasonal allergic reaction.

Sweet Itch Symptoms

Symptoms of sweet itch include but are not limited to severe itching, hair loss, skin thickening and dandruff. A marked change in temperament is also a common symptom – horses may become agitated or impatient, and may frequently roll, scratch or bite the irritated area.

Sweet itch affects the top of the tail and the mane most commonly, although the neck, withers and hips are also problem areas.

Sweet Itch Management

As yet there is no cure for sweet itch – once symptoms develop the best you can do is manage the condition. There are three key ways to do this:

  1.      Minimise the midges. Use insect repellent and insecticide to reduce the amount of midges your horse has to deal with. Check out our blog on effective fly control for more information.
  2.      Minimise the allergic reaction. Try corticosteroids and/or antihistamines from your vet.
  3.      Use barrier techniques. Try fly rugs, masks or stabling to protect your horse directly.

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