Vet : Hi there, vet Andrew here.
Vet : Does Henry seem to be itchy all over, or in any particular place?
Vet : When did this all start?
About a week ago
Vet : Has he been anywhere, such as a show, or been in contact with any other horses? Has there been any change in routine, feed, bedding or rugs?
Sorry nearer 2 weeks ago as we stopped the codlivine about 10 days ago.
We moved to new stables about 2 months ago. We went to a show a few weeks ago, it is somewhere we regularly go. He is in a field on his own.
Vet : Lastly, whereabouts is the field - is it near trees or water? Where in the country are you?
We are in Penn, Wolverhampton. There is no water nearby, we have checked the field which is surrounded by electric fencing he cannot get to any trees or bushes. We cannot see any unusual plants in the field.
Vet : Ok, when a horse presents like this my first suspicion is sweet itch. This is an allergic reaction to midge bites, and has no specific cure, but can be managed. I don't suspect lice, as these cause hair loss and can be seen, or mites, as these are generally confined to specific areas, such as the lower legs.
Vet : Rather than type the details here, I generally direct clients to this website: sweet-itch.co.uk, which is an excellent starting point.
Henry suffers from sweetitch and has done for some years. We manage to keep this under control during the summer but it had started to calm down with the cooler weather. This is a different problem, they way he is scratching is different, rather than rubbing his mane and tail he is actually biting his stomach and legs to try to ease the itching.
Vet : Yes, but the recent weather has resulted in large numbers of midges, and we are seeing severe flare-ups just like you describe. Classically sweet itch affects the mane and tail as the midges bite there, but being an allergic reaction can affect the whole body.
Vet : You should cool his skin down with damp sponges, and get him into the stable as soon as he will keep calm in there. Any insect repellent you have will help, but may not make much difference. I have seen recent cases where I have had to administer a short-acting steroid intravenously, so if you're not winning you'll need to get the vet in. Hopefully the cold weather will put pay to the midges soon.
Vet : Avoid rugs if you can as these increase the skin temperature. Also reduce the time you ride him as exercise has the same effect.
Vet : The only other possibility is nettlerash, but usually in these cases the exposure to nettles in the field is obvious.
Thank you for the advice, we have never seen him this bad it is distressing for both him and us.
Vet : Sorry to hear that. I know it's distressing when horses get so frantic. Get onto him with the sponges as soon as you can as skin temperature is so critical to reducing discomfort in these cases.
Vet : If you are desperate, and know a friendly farmer, ask them for a cupful of something like Crovect which is a fly repellent for cattle, and dab it onto him. You're not supposed to use it on horses but plenty of farmers do. It may help stop the condition getting worse in the short term.
Vet : That's all I can tell you for the moment. I wish you all the best, ***** ***** keep in touch via this thread.
Thanks again, will persevere.