Also known as pruritus or seasonal recurrent dermatitis (SSRD), this is a condition in horses – typically in the summer – that causes severe itching, skin damage, and the loss of tail and mane hair. It describes the horrible sensation that causes horses to bite and scratch their own skin to rid themselves of an unidentified itch.
We now know a little more about the condition and it is thought to stem from an allergic reaction to the bite of midges, which can later result in infection. The horse’s immune system then tries to rectify the situation by thickening the skin, which results in ulceration. As you can imagine, this is acutely uncomfortable for the horse, which is why experts have been working hard to try to find a cure. Whilst there is currently no definite cure, there are several prevention methods and treatments for horses that have been afflicted.
Keeping midges off is the main goal with prevention. To do this, there are a few methods you can try, the easiest and most cost-effective of which is investing in insect repellents and fly guards for the stable and a blanket to cover your horse’s skin. If the midges can’t get to your horse, they are unlikely to be able to bite them.
Another method is to invest in fans for the stable. This is more expensive, but fans directed at your horse – particularly when combined with natural insect repellents such as garlic and eucalyptus – will work as a deterrent to the midges at feeding times.
If your horse is unfortunate enough to have been bitten already, there are a few things you can do to alleviate and treat the symptoms. One thing you can do is to invest in a remedy from a specialist such as https://www.stinky-stuff.co.uk/sweet-itch/ that has experience in the treatment of this condition. Shampoos and oils can be applied directly to the horse’s coat to soothe the itching.
Other methods include immunotherapy and the use of steroids. The main cause of the itching is the horse’s immune system going into overdrive, so there are capsules available to suppress this and thus stem the itching. This is an expensive method, however, and not as natural as others available, so should only be considered as a last resort.