Sweet Itch

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Sweet Itch Sores
Sweet Itch Sores


Sweet Itch is a condition that affects the mane, back, quarters and tail. It is more common in ponies than horses and the condition varies in severity from occasional rubbing with some broken mane and tail hairs to almost complete loss of the mane and tail.

Affected ponies will rub against trees, fences and stables and persistent rubbing can cause bald patches and open sores. Scabby nodules can form and these then ooze fluid when the horse rubs. With time, the repeated trauma causes thickening and ridging of the skin at the base of the mane.


Sweet Itch is caused by an allergic reaction to midge bites. Midges are especially active at dawn and dusk during spring and summer.

Treatment & Prevention

With ponies that suffer each year from Sweet Itch, you should aim to prevent the symptoms before they appear.

1. Midges breed in standing water so move affected animals out of marshy fields and away from slow moving streams and ponds.

2. Horses and ponies known to suffer from Sweet Itch should not be out at grass when the midges are most prevalent. They should be stabled between 4 pm and 8 am.

3. Screen off stable windows and half door with a fine mesh to prevent midges from going into the stable and use a summer sheet to protect the base of the mane and tail. Complete neck and tail covers are available and these can also be useful.

4. Use a good fly repellent for the few hours the horse is turned out.

5. Apply benzyl benzoate lotion to the affected area every day. This will have a soothing affect and make the pony less attractive to the midges.

6. In severe cases, anti-histamine injections or tablets may be prescribed by the vet to ease the irritation.

Note: Horses and ponies known to suffer from Sweet Itch must not be turned out to grass permanently during spring and summer.


Animals that are affected by Sweet Itch should not be used for breeding as the condition is hereditary.

Other Information

Sweet Itch is also known as:
Queensland Itch
Summer Itch
Culicoides Hypersensitivity

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