Sweet itch and immunotherapyRSS feed

Posted: Wednesday 7 June, 2006

by Rosemary at 9:28pm in Equines 10 comments Add your own

I can't remember if I've posted on this before, but my horse, Smokey, has a condition called sweet itch. Sweet itch affects around 5% of horses and is a problem with the immune system, which goes into overdrive if the horse is bitten by the Cullicoides midge. Now, I can have some sympathy with this because I get a pretty bad reaction to midge bites compared to, say, Dan. But nothing compared to Smokey and HE doesn't have it that bad, compared to some horses.

Horses with sweet itch will scratch and rub until they are red raw, destroying mane and tail (the most affected areas) in the process. There are lots of potential remedies - some work for some horses and not for others.

In the past, I've tried a number of feed additives (no joy), sprays and lotions (no joy) and now use a lightweight rug and fly mask. These are reasonably successful - they stop him getting bitten and if he does get bitten when the rug is off, stop him rubbing too badly. I also give him garlic and smear on copious quantities of Equineem soothing lotion. He likes both of these.

This year, we're trying immunotherapy. My vet hasn't used it on a horse before but has used it on dogs and cats. Another horse at the same yard has had the treatment from another vet, with some success.

Smokey's blood test showed that he was allergic to the Cullicoides midge. I now inject him regularly with increasing doses of serum. He's very good - not at all needle shy. This is our third week. I'm not sure when I'll be brave enough to take the rug off and see if it's working.

I'll keep you posted.



Saturday 10 June, 2006 at 2:52pm

I would like to know the particulars of your immunotherapy with Smokey. We have a similar situation with a pony. I would like to fix the 'glitch' & re-constitute "Rasin's" immune system. At a horse expo last Feb, a rep from Uckeley said that they were in the process of getting a product on the market for sweet-itch.



Sunday 11 June, 2006 at 10:46pm

I will keep you posted.

Smokey's had the first six injections. My vet did the first one and I've done the rest. They're subcutaneous, so easy to administer. He starts the next block of six on Wednesday.

I left his rug off yesterday - it was windy and I thought the midges would be blown away. Not so, he's rubbed a bit of his mane away overnight. I could kick myself - no patience, see. So rug back on today, with lots of soothing cream on the itchy bit.

I've got the next vial of serum to pick up tomorrow, so I'll see when the vet thinks it might be safe to leave the rug off.


Tuesday 13 June, 2006 at 6:35pm

I Have a dales pony called storm he has had sweet itch for the last 6 years he gets it really bad he rubs his main and tail off as well as all the hair on his rump and his face over the last 4 years i have used switch which i get from the vets it controls it up to point and stops him getting sore but he still looses all his hair my friend is using immunotherapy for her dog and it is working quite well i wondered if it was possible for horses to have the same treatment could you let me know the details thanks.


Thursday 15 June, 2006 at 12:47am

My vet hadn't used immunotherapy on horses before. Another horse at our yard had the same treatment last year and it was quite successful. The lab used is Greendale - you'll find them on the web. Worth discussing with your vet.

Mic Rushen

Thursday 13 July, 2006 at 10:39am

One of the best things for horses with sweet itch is a blanket. Most people know of the Boett (a blanket which covers the horse from just behind his ears to the end of his tail, including the belly, which is lightweight, breathable and designed to be left on 24/7) - I sell an alternative made in Holland, which is made from exactly the same material as the 2005 Boett, and a very similar design. The good thing is, the DeMeulenkamp blanket is less than 2/3 the price of the Boett, starting at £100 for tiny up to £120 for huge. I also sell matching hoods. For more information, see www.solva-icelandics.co.uk/sweet1.htm


Monday 24 July, 2006 at 5:46pm

I am in the US and to date no one is even talking about immune therapy for sweet itch. My horse has the most severe case the vet has ever seen. I would like more details, including the name of the shots you are giving your horse. My vet is open to discussions and this would be a most interesting discussion.


michelle carter

Friday 4 August, 2006 at 1:23am

well hiya i have a horse called henry he has so bad sweet itch i only just got him becase i felt sorry for him because the owner aboandnond him so yeh so do you reacon i could have some advice please i no how to treat it but is there any speacil stuff for it


Monday 7 August, 2006 at 7:32am

I wanted to make everyone aware of another solution for sweet itch affected horses. The Belly Dickie provides complete protection of the Belly and sheath area. The sheath area has a detachable mesh pouch that males can urinate through, and it can be easily removed, rinsed and replace.

We have had great success with this product. horses that are protected on the belly often show relief of symptoms in mane and tail, too.


Monday 7 August, 2006 at 7:33am

ooops - check out the Belly Dickie on our website:



Jane Ford

Sunday 7 August, 2016 at 5:01pm

interested in the results of sublingual immunotherapy for sweet itch in your horse,my horse suffers from this and Ive tried just about everything Regards Jane and Merlin

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