What To Do About the Itchy Horse

Managing itchy horses can be a perplexing and frustrating challenge. Veterinarians share ideas on how to help.

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What To Do About the Itchy Horse
There is no one answer to solving the problem of the itchy horse. | Photo: iStock

Itchy skin is the pits, for horses and humans alike. It can become so severe in some horses that they scratch their skin raw, leaving open wounds prone to infection. Medical treatment isn’t always an option, due to drug sensitivities or competition rules, so managing the itchy horse can quickly become a perplexing and frustrating challenge for horse owners.

Suzi White, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, professor emeritus of the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and Julia Wilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine and the Equitarian Initiative, hosted a forum at the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida, to share ideas and discuss potential solutions to itchy horse problems.

Gnats, flies, and Culicoides (biting midges) species are major causes of itching. Some horses are allergic to proteins in the saliva of biting midges and can develop an extreme adverse reaction. Unfortunately, it is not possible to eliminate flying pests completely, so it’s very important to manage these horses’ environment and apply protective measures

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Written by:

Nettie Liburt, MS, PhD, PAS, is an equine nutritionist based on Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she studied equine exercise physiology and nutrition. Liburt is a member of the Equine Science Society.

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