Sweet itch - when the skin itches

Signs of sweet itch
Sweet itch is an allergic reaction of the skin that is recognizable by bald, chafed areas on the coat and mane. The most common cause of severe itching is a hypersensitivity to black flies and midges. The affected horse usually rubs the areas around its mane and tail against objects to relieve the itch, and this can cause additional problems such as swelling and inflammation. The abdomen and the sheath are also often affected by itching.
How is sweet itch influenced by feeding?
Many different factors, such as genetics, stress, or a diet that is not tailored to the horse's needs can influence the severity of sweet itch.

The feeding of the affected horses should therefore be thoroughly checked. For example, an excess supply of protein can cause an allergic reaction. Young grass is especially high in protein. Pre Alpin® Protein Light Flakes (very low in protein and rich in crude fibre) balances out such excess protein, especially during the grazing season. It relieves the metabolism and its high crude fibre content also aids digestion.

Horses with allergies like sweet itch often suffer from a mineral deficiency, especially with regard to zinc, which is an important trace element for healthy skin. If the body's zinc requirements are not met, it will lack important components to support skin metabolism. A zinc deficiency can be compensated with AGROBS Zink pur. AGROBS Zink pur provides organically-bound zinc that can be easily broken down in the body. Deficiencies can be compensated through the feeding of a high-quality mineral feed like AGROBS Naturmineral, AGROBS Weidemineral-Cobs during the grazing season or AGROBS Seniormineral, specially for older horses. Mineral feed is recommended throughout the year to prevent long-term deficiencies.

A dull coat or itching can also indicate a lack of vitamin A or beta-Carotene (precursor of vitamin A). Fat-soluble vitamin A is particularly important as epithelium protection and thus helps to keep skin and mucous membranes healthy. It also strengthens eyesight through positive effects on the retina. Feeding your horse high-quality hay or AGROBS crude fibre products, for example Pre Alpin® Wiesencobs, Pre Alpin® Wiesenflakes, Pre Alpin® Aspero, Pre Alpin® Senior, Pre Alpin® Compact or AGROBS AlpenHeu will provide it with a sufficient supply of beta-Carotene. Enzymes in the mucous membrane of the small intestine convert beta-Carotene into vitamin A. This conversion process protects the organism from an oversupply, because only the necessary amount of vitamin A will be produced through beta-Carotene. An excess of vitamin A can be seen in such signs as a rough coat, poor muscle tone, general poor performance and coordination issues (ataxia).

AGROBS AlpenGrün Müsli is suitable as a feed supplement for sensitive horses. AGROBS AlpenGrün Müsli is a 100% natural product which contains no cereals, molasses or artificial additives. AGROBS AlpenGrün Mash not only aids your horse’s digestion. Due to its high proportion of leaves and seeds, AGROBS AlpenGrün Mash is rich in natural vital substances that ensure healthy skin and a shiny coat.

Large amounts of protein in the feed and feed intolerances can strain the liver and kidneys, especially with sensitive horses. It is recommended that these organs be aided through the use of healing herbs. Bergsiegel offers high-quality herbal mixtures in pharmaceutical quality for the liver and kidneys. Bergsiegel's herbal mixture for the liver has tannins and bitter substances that help to clean and regenerate the liver and stimulate the flow of bile. Bergsiegel's herbs for the kidneys lets you support your horse through natural kidney cleansing and detox. These valuable herbs also regulate a natural flow of urine. Bergsiegel Brennnesselblätter is suitable as a single herb feed to help horses suffering from sweet itch. It has cleansing and diuretic properties, and can also have a positive effects on the skin and coat.

Very sensitive horses should only be turned out when mosquitoes are less or no longer active. Otherwise, protective eczema sheets and fly sprays can also help to ward off pests. Special salves should be applied to irritated areas to prevent inflammation.

  • Meyer H., Coenen M.: Pferdefütterung. Enke Verlag Stuttgart, 2014    
  • Dietz O., Huskamp B.: Handbuch Pferdekrankheiten. Enke Verlag Stuttgart, 2006  
  • Bender I.: Praxishandbuch Pferdefütterung. Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH & Co. KG Stuttgart 2009  


Dr. med. vet. Katharina Boes
May 2015 ©AGROBS GmbH 

(* The references refer to the technical content of the text and not to the product recommendations.)