Pony has come back off loan with sweet itch - advice on management/treatment
Hi all, as you probably know, DD's old lead rein pony went on loan in the spring to some friends and recently came back to me for the winter. He has developed sweet itch while away, I would imagine from the sheer numbers of midges this year - he didn't get it while with me. So he has rubbed most of his mane off (was a lovely, thick blond sheltie mane before ) and the top of his tail plus he has scabbing at the tops of his shoulders and on his rump. His loan family treated him with benzyl benzoate (which I thought was a banned substance, but they may have got it in Ireland) and regularly shampooed with dermoline. It didn't work so I haven't continued with this.
Now I have never had a pony/horse with sweet itch before and imagined that it would clear up now that the weather is colder and the midges have mostly gone. So I put him in a fly sheet and now he has a high-neck winter rug on (he has a belly clip so can't go unrugged).
Poor boy is still very itchy and I noticed yesterday that one of the scabs was raw underneath so he is still reacting. I have been advised to hog him so that treatment is easier (and tbh most of his mane has gone anyway) and wash him regularly in cheapo shampoo to keep the grease out of his coat.
I'm planning on hogging his mane this weekend and will wash his mane and shoulders but I think he may need something soothing as well. Also, I have got some NAF natural fly spray which I will use, but will happily use deet-based spray if any of you think it will work better.
So any advice/anecdotes/recommendations gratefully received, thanks.
Just to add, regular washing just won't be practical where I am currently keeping him and he has a very thick coat so drying him off afterwards in the winter will be nearly impossible.
Poor boy.I've no experience of sweet itch,but dpony rubbed half her tail out this year as the midges were bad,and our loan pony rubbed a chunk out of his mane.My neighbour gave me something to rub into it and it really helped,I'll look it up for you.
I had some stuff called Ridect which was recommended by a friend who had an Irish draught who lost his entire mane and tail to it. It is a sort of cow fly/ mite/ pest killer and repellent and you apply it down the line from ears to tail according to the dose and wearing gloves!! I'd tried every holistic, organic and free range thing going and spent a fortune by this time and I can honestly say it was a miracle cure - he was a native and his mane was quite important as was his tail! The product may well be called something else by now as it is ten years since I last bought some, that bottle was still going strong last year, sadly it lasted longer than the beloved pony despite being allegedly out of it's date. I put it on 3 - 4 times a year, first go at the first sign of itching in early spring, last time usually at the start of September, he had a beautiful mane and tail.
As above it may be called something different now and the vet may be sceptical but that is what I would go for again, every time!
Good luck, even if that doesn't appeal I hope you find something that works as it is miserable and hogging has it's own problems IMO.
We've had success using Dectomax pour-on for cattle (It's off-licence for horses). AFAIK, it is ivermectin based - we've also had success with Dectomax injections for mites and lice. You should be able to get it over the counter in a decent agricultural merchant.
My mare is an absolute witch - suffers sweet itch, can't get anything on her including rugs, and the pour-on seems to have reduced the symptoms tremendously - she actually managed to keep her mane and tail this year!!
My Shettie went like this this year too! Shes never had sweet itch in her life! Vet gave me something called Switch which was very good.
It may not be sweet itch, dpony gets very scurfy/itchy when moulting, and often scratches herself. Also it could be lice, Switch will help either way. I put sudocreme on her raw gooey bits this year and that helped immensely. I also increased her oil intake greatly, it comes out through the skin and helps with her dry scurfiness. Codlivine is good for that, or we feed Biocare from Falcon Feeds. Alternatively, just feed lots of veg or sunflower oil.
If you can wash, hibiscrub is antiseptic/fungal/bacterial/microbial etc and is another great cure all!
Switch is the horse version if Dectomax. Feed merchants should only sell Dect for cattle. They can get in trouble selling it off species! Mine definitely wouldn't!
Thanks so much for all of the replies, some excellent things to think about. I would have no problem getting the dectomax as DBIL has a suckler herd. Sudocreme is a good idea, hadn't thought of that.
Also cod liver oil. I need to get some for my vaguely arthritic JRT so will buy extra. How do you administer it and how much do you give Saggy - pony is quite plump already so don't want to feed too much. Some low-energy chaff maybe?
Ridect and dectomax sound like they could be the same thing. I will have a google.
I'm really hoping that it is a one off due to excess midgeyness, but I think once they are sensitised they get it every year. If all else fails I shall buy a sweet itch rug next year, though they are soooo expensive and he is a devil for ripping rugs.
I used Sudocreme aswell on the raw bits and it seemed to really help. I'm sure I still saw midges around the other night even though they are supposed to be dead and gone by now!!!
There are still midges round here - we need some consistent frosts to get rid of them. My pony is very itchy, although not with sweet itch, and will rub himself raw given the chance. I've started feeding him D&H Safe & Sound which was recommended after a bout of colic, although it's mainly for laminitics, I needed something fibrous to keep his tummy busy whilst he was in, and so far it seems to have worked. It seems to have lots of other stuff in it, so it may be worth looking into as well as external treatment. I'm told garlic helps repel things (funnily enough) although I've not tried that myself.
hi I know of a really good product for sweet itch called Prize made by Equisoothe, and no I am not on commission....
the two ponies on the 'about us'page are chronic sweet itch ponies but it is managed with Prize, esp in the midge season of course. Midges were terrible this year.
Actually, that's a good point Sparkly when we buy Dectomax, it's always "for our cattle". Calisto if you have any collies, don't let them anywhere near Dectomax. Ivermectin can kill them.
I used to feed codlivine powder, but mainly because it was on a really good offer so I bought a years supply! Now I feed the Biocare hard feed,
when they need it, which has the highest oil content of any feed we researched, or just dollop in some veg or sunflower oil. I read somewhere, possibly H&H, that you can give them as much as you can get into them! Oil is good for loads, joints, coat, and also behaviour. It has calming effects and can help a high strung horse settle.
I never bothered with the sweetitch blankets, to be honest I reckoned that on a native that even that tiny, tiny addition of cover would add heat/ irritation in hot weather and would actually make him itch and therefore tear etc, etc. Have a friend who flushed about £300 on the darn things on hers before she gave up, just a thought!
I'm a great believer in sweet itch rugs - the only caveat is that ideally you need to put them on before the horse gets itchy (otherwise horse may rip the rug scratching though you can repair them yourself quite easily). I had two horses, one bona fide sweet itch sufferer (came to me that way, rubbed red raw, the poor thing) and one just very itchy in the warmer months as was a big sweaty boy and loved to scratch. For both of them I tried all sorts of lotions and potions and supplements, vet prescribed and otherwise (including steroid injections), spending £££s and getting stressed at the sight of my suffering horses.
The only thing that worked for us was getting sweet itch rugs (you can get 'fake' Boetts for reasonable sums, just like the real thing only cheaper) and wearing them night and day from March (or whenever the midges appear, may be sooner) to October (or whenever the midges disappear). The only time the rugs came off was for riding (though I know some people leave them on, just take the straps off) or washing (they are so thin you can chuck them back on wet, they get wet out in the field anyway and just dry on as they are so thin). No more itchy horses and no more stress.
Yes, the initial cost is more than a tub of cream but in the long term I reckon I saved lots of money (and much more importantly: suffering for the itchy horses). For legs/any other exposed bits I used Avon's Skin So Soft bath oil which seemed to work as a midge repellent and made horses smell very nice. I never found the rugs made the horses hot (and I think you can now get rugs that actually reflect the sun light if you spend a bit more money) and they lasted very well (several summers), with a few small repairs. An added bonus was clean, sparkling horses (no more muddy backs from rolling!
OP, until next spring/midge season I would use soothing lotions on your pony (sudacrem, vaseline, aloe vera, olive oil, anything that works really) until the itching settles down. I did actually use benzyl benzoate on mine (just got it from the local chemists here in England) but it didn't seem to make much difference. I have heard that tea tree/medicated shampoos (hibiscrub etc) can sometimes irritate the skin more (as makes it drier) so I tried not to wash my horses too much (just hose down with water when sweaty etc), though not sure whether that's true or not. Also heard that garlic can sometimes make the itching worse in true sweet itch sufferers (again, not sure that's true, there are so many experts on the internet with different theories as to the causes and cures of sweet itch).
And on a final positive note: when we moved yards (unrelated to the sweet itch issues) to another one, up a very windy hill, both of my horses got a lot better. So sometimes a change in environment can make a difference, too. If your yard has fewer midges than your friend's, your sweet itch sufferer may never have it again!
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