Millions of people and horses alike suffer from allergic dermatitis, also known as eczema. Probably most associated with Summer Itch in horses, the good news is that your horse has more supports than ever before to defend itself against painful itchy eczema.
- Equine topical allergy from insect hypersensitivity caused by gnats, “no-see-ums” or Culicoide midges.
- Antigens in the saliva of foreign proteins carried from insect bites cause redness and itching within 6 to 24 hours.
- Allergies , dust and other airborne allergens, poor hygiene, drugs, grooming products and diet all contribute to eczema.
- Noncontagious painful, itchy burning areas of mane, base of tail, head, and belly midline. (Note: foals have a genetic predisposition)
- Patchy, irritated, inflamed, blotchy red skin with a sensitivity to touch.
- Rubbing, which breaks off hair, and increased scabbing to mane and tail.
- Hives may appear
- Inflamed crusts may become dry and bleed
- Moist, weeping open lesions.
- Limitations or inability to ride due to horse’s discomfort, restless and nervous behavior
- Increased secondary bacterial or fungal invasion due to damaged weakened skin
Add an all-natural liquid supplement to your horse’s feed that contains Marshmallow, Rose Hips, Dandelion and Blue Green Algae (Equine Medical & Surgical Assoc. email@example.com).
Organic plantain leaves can be shredded or chewed to deter side effects.
Low Acid Apple Cider Vinegar can be added to the diet (2-3 tbsp. in winter prior to midge season).
Sulfur (1 tbsp) can be added to feed as long as it is not >2% of your horse’s feed intake.
Homeopathic Apis mellifica D6 @ 10 drops 2-3 times per day for 7-10 days, or for weepy bloody skin add Rhus toxicodendron D12 10 drops once a day for 10 days.
Homeopathic Tissue Salts: Kali Sulph, Nat Mur and Calc Fluror can be added during vulnerable seasons.
Herbs: Powdered Licorice (1 tsp daily for no more than 3 months) assists with itchy raw skin, along with dandelion leaves to deter any potassium loss.
Supplement free choice minerals and add the enzyme Protease.
Immediately after washing your horse, lock in moisture by applying topicals such as:
a) Aloe Vera (cooling effect, locks in moisture, minimizes pain and itching, anti-inflammatory)
b) Olive oil (high in vitamin A and moisturizing)
c) Calendula (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory)
d) Plantain leaf (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory)
d) Uncooked, enzyme-rich, natural honey and cinnamon deter bacteria
Teas containing aloe Vera and/or plantain can relieve itch.
Make an oatmeal poultice or paste and apply to dry irritated patches.
Hooding is ideal for some horses. ( www.snuggyhoodsusa.com )
STOP the ITCH products by Zephyr’s Garden are effective, as are their great fly spray and salves.
Banixx offers a convenient Hydronium solution spray.
OTHER ECZEMA FIGHTERS
- Use organic or natural scent-free, alcohol-free soaps, shampoos, or conditioners.
- Wash your horse 2-3 times a week briefly in lukewarm, never cold or hot, water.
- Do not dry your horse completely after washing to avoid removing natural skin oils and so moisture can soak into the skin.
- Maximize hydration . Offer limitless clean water. You can soak feed, but serve immediately and do not leave wet feed out all day to mold.
- Keep a log of all feed intake and activities, to refer to (and subsequently adjust) after an outbreak occurs.
- Consider natural supplementation which includes Vitamins C, E and omega, wheat germ oil (see Cautions), and fresh ground flax.
- Avoid turning horses out in early morning or evening.
- Include fan usage to blow midges and weak flying gnats "away" from your horse during night stall time.
- Screen windows with tight mesh to limit entry.
- Stall horses in the middle of the barn since gnats rarely go beyond door and window openings.
- Decrease skin reactions by balancing with acupuncture.
Ideally, start internal treatments BEFORE midge arrival or seasonal signs of allergy are visible. Keep topical relief in your barn first aid kit year round.
1. Do not use synthetic chemical medications and sprays which may lead to side effects such as scours or stomach bleeding.
2. Do not feed high acid foods to your horse. Never feed Wheat germ oil blends that contain corn oil which are linked to toxins and reduced immune function. Eliminate sweet feeds (for people, that includes junk food and sugary cereal), and limit consumption of seeded fruits (possible antagonists). Food such as wheat, eggs, and milk can set off eczema, whereas most fruits and vegetables support healthy skin. (Note: diet-related eczema requires supporting the liver, bowel and kidney.)
3. REMOVE stagnant water within one mile from your horses, where the Culicoides live. Clean stalls daily; gnats, biting midges and sand flies lay eggs in manure. Never stall near marshy or wooded areas which breed and house larvae in winter.
4. ELIMINATE long shower baths which lead to dry skin especially without proper moisturizer.
5. Avoid steroid allergy shots which typically have a low success rate. Corticosteroids at first signs of itching and repeated in intervals can control symptoms but also can become ineffective and cause harm over long term.
6. Spring and Summer pose greater threat of insect invasion yet wet seasons open your horse up to more fungal-related skin issues.
7. Sweet Itch often becomes progressively worse each year it reoccurs.
- Eliminate or minimize exposure to antagonists.
- Keep skin calm and non-irritated via natural diet, clean environment and avoiding fabrics such as wools or synthetics which may aggravate your horse’s skin.
- Soothe damaged skin while stimulating healing and maintaining a strong immune system.
- Eliminate allergy-causing foods and grass or feed high in sugar or low in fiber.
Shari Frederick, BS, NMD, LE, a nutritional educator, assists horseowners in making healthier, more natural choices in horse care. She is an independent author, international lecturer and self-styled naturalist. At her Happy Horse Haven Rescue in Texas, detoxification and liver/kidney/immune supports are the FIRST steps in rehab for nearly every arriving horse. Visit Shari’s websites, horseshaveheart.org , horserescuefaces.com , healthyhorsehints.com , and sharifrederick.org
If you found the information in this article useful, please consider donating to Shari’s Happy Horse Haven Rescue .