I hope everyone is enjoying this wonderful summertime. Mid to upper 90's here, with a humidity level to match. I just love livin' in the south. I want to share a couple of thoughts with you all, and even some wonderful info for you to take to heart. It is possible that I should have shared this with you back in the Spring, but I guess it's "better late than never". I have done some extensive research on a phenomenon known as "Summer Itch". I've found it's called Summer Itch, Sweet Itch, Tailbone itch, Summer eczema, Queensland itch, and more technically ... Culicoides hypersensitivity. Whatever you prefer to call it, the problem is the same.............a seriously itchy rash. I had never heard of this until I had a horse suffering from it and started researching what could be wrong with her. When I say "suffering", I mean it in every sense of the word. My mare, Angel, suffered a couple of years with this before I discovered what the problem was. We all knew it was an allergy. Even my vet knew it was an allergy, but after much money spent on salves, corticosteroids, vet visits, and every medicated or moisturizing shampoo known in the horse world, I finally found some info that helped.
First, let me explain exactly what it is: an allergic reaction to specific allergens in the saliva of the Culicoides midges. There are several allergens involved, but basically when a no-seeum bites a horse that has this allergy, the saliva causes an allergic reaction, ie: itchy rash, and sense he/she can't tell you where they itch, and the skin is covered with hair, the only thing your horse can do is rub, rub, rub...........to try to stop the itch. The outcome.............he/she rubs the hair off, and the skin off, and it makes a nasty looking rash that almost looks like mange. The most common areas on the horse that are affected is the rump area, and the underside of the neck and stomach. The large doses of prednisone helped, but when you talk about dosing a 1000 lb horse, that's a lot of pills. The only thing that it helped, was a jump start on the healing process. The problem was, when the next round of midges emerged.........the problem emerged as well.
I have read some really querky solutions to this problem. One idea was to bring the horse in a couple of hours before dark and then put him/her out a couple of hours after the sun came up. (thus avoiding the onslaught of midges at dusk and dawn) Another idea, fly masks and sheets. I do understand the concept here, and I suppose that might work for some folks, but my horses are just plain ol' horses. They live out in a pasture, grazing and playing with other horses......all day and all night long. I've never believed it to be in the best interest of a horse to live in a stall. But, that subject is for another blog - on another day. I don't think that fly sheets was the best answer for me. The medicated, moisturizing shampoo is a good thing. Not the total answer, but still a good thing. Since she does scratch a lot, this does seem to cut down on some of the itching. Keeping Angel in a small pasture that doesn't have much grass growing on it, and a fairly good distance from any bodies of water has helped a great deal. Midges require moisture to hatch, much like mosquitos. Take away the "midge habitat" and you take away a lot of itch.
I've found a product that seems to help quite a bit. It's called "Freedom 45". It's a fly control treatment. Very similar to the topical flea treatments you can get for your dogs or cats. There are a lot of varities of this, but this one comes in a convenient "6-pack" and is very economical too. It runs less than $25 for the 6 tubes, which lasts 12 weeks. Not bad at all, cosidering 1 bottle of the prednisone was running me around $150. Also, I have found a "Sweet itch" cream, for those occasional outbreaks that just can't be avoided. It's one I mix up myself, and therefore, it also is very economical. Mix together the following ingredients : 1 oz triple antibiotic cream, 1 oz hydrocortisone cream, 1 oz vaseline. Mix all of this together, rub it on the affected area a couple of times a day. It really seems to help heal up the rash without leaving scars. Angel is a black horse, so I'd kinda like her to stay that way. : )
Well, I suppose it's time for me to leave it with you. I do hope you find this info helpful. If you too have a horse with Summer Itch, and you have some other great info you'd like to share, please feel free to leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you, and I'd love to have even more info on this pesky little critter. Until next time :