Now is the time you start to see Facebook and Instagram ads showing magical, overnight solutions for Itch. The reality is that there is not one cure. You need to apply a suite of solutions, and you need to start well before January. Ideally you will supply optimal zinc in the diet year-round, and then your horse will have superior immune function to deal with all kinds of skin conditions, wound healing, parasite resistance and more.
With diligence though, even if you start today you can greatly diminish your horse's discomfort.
Send this to your friend who's currently battling Itch.
Queensland itch, also known as summer seasonal recurrent dermatitis (SSRD), is a hypersensitivity reaction to the Culicoides midge bites. It typically manifests as intense itching, hair loss, and skin inflammation, particularly along the mane, tail, and around the face. If left untreated, Itch can lead to secondary infections (crusty wounds) and great discomfort for your horse.
Insect bites are the problem. You can greatly reduce the reaction to bites with nutrition and topical treatments, but limiting bites will make a big difference. Rug your horse, and apply insect repellent.
Research on Nutrition For Itch
Research indicates the best nutraceuticals for Itch are linseed, spirulina and zinc-based supplements. Studies indicate horses fed these have significantly smaller lesion size than the control group. We have covered that previously.
Horses on our property that had Itch when they arrived don't have the symptoms any more. But that's not a 'cure'. If we stopped supplementing them and stopped being vigilant with our husbandry, they would show all the symptoms again.
Trace Mix supplies optimal zinc. It doesn't just help with Itch, but anything immune - skin problems, parasite management, and wound healing etc.
Linseed/Flax supplies omega 3 oils. It helps with Itch, but it's great for neurological function and is anti-inflammatory generally.
Topical treatments, such as medicated creams and sprays can provide immediate relief by soothing the affected areas and reducing inflammation. Watch out for products containing ingredients like corticosteroids, or manufactured antihistamines. While they will help in the short term, they have some very nasty side effects with long term use.
You are looking for natural products like aloe, and oils like tea-tree and neem. For lesions, nappy rash creams containing zinc are also very helpful and cheaper then their equine counterparts. Tuff Rock Poultice is also great on scratches.
Wash Your Horse
All skin conditions are improved by keeping your horse relatively clean. A horse will scratch when they have loose hair, dirt, sweat and salt on their skin as well as from the insect bites.
While we encourage horse owners to rug their horse against insect bites, many, many horses have a rug put on at the beginning of summer and not taken off at all until March. This is equally terrible.
If you are washing your horse regularly you are taking the rug off, observing any rubs, getting rid of loose hair and dead skin, which will reduce scratching.
We have a zinc-based shampoo. It is human-grade, so it's safe to use around the ears and eyes. Faces often need a good wash if they have been wearing a fly mask 24/7. This shampoo is also good for treating greasy heel, rain-rot or any other skin problems.
If you supply the nutrients required to support immune function, keep your horse clean, rug and apply insect repellent, and promptly apply natural topical lotions to any lesions you are going to see an improvement.
Consider though - Itch is not the only reason for scratching. Horses with pinworm will scratch the hair from their tail. Horses with neck-thread worm will scratch out their manes, and often have hair loss on their bellies. Make sure you are simultaneously managing internal parasites.
Here are two articles on
Take pictures of your horse when they are at their worst.
While we often don't want to remember our horse in poor condition, taking pictures will help you maintain perspective and keep track of positive changes over time.