Typically, as summer months are present, culicoides gnats begin to emerge. These culicoides gnats are invasive to horses and their bites can cause damaging allergic reactions and extreme skin inflammation called Summer Eczema. Follow these management and preventive measures to keep your horse healthy.
Causes of Summer Eczema
Summer Eczema, also known as “sweet itch”, is an inflammation of the skin that can be caused by both internal and external factors. Summer Eczema usually occurs between the months of April and October, or whenever the first culicoides gnats emerge.
Just as horses are sensitive to the allergens in the air because of their proneness to respiratory problems, horses can also gain allergies to insect bites, especially gnats. Culicoides gnats are known to feed on horse’s blood during the hot months and their bites are known to cause allergic reactions. Culicoides gnats are attracted to their hosts by smell, heat, and sight. They will bite any exposed skin even if it has already been cut and bitten into.
The symptoms of Summer Eczema, in the beginning, include mild itching. During the outbreak, the symptoms will continue to worsen as your horse begins to chafe and scratch itself up against trees, its stall, etc. Your horse will begin to show patchy, irritated, and blotchy red skin that is very sensitive to touch. It is common for these inflamed crusts to dry up and bleed. Constant scratching can cause hair loss and ridges in their skin.
With continuous exposure to these gnats without correct management, wet lesions will form causing extreme discomfort and possible vulnerability to harmful bacteria. It's very important to take immediate action during every season to avoid this kind of outbreak.
When managing an outbreak of this “sweet itch” it is suggested that you take precautions by stabling your horse during the night when the gnats are at their peak. Placing a fan inside their stall can also be beneficial as the increased airflow will deter gnats from biting because biting gnats usually have weaker wings.
Some great preventative measures that every horse owner should pay attention to is to protect your equine friends by using Equine Medical and Surgical Associates’ RK Topical Spray. This spray should be used twice a day, once in the morning and for a second time at dusk. RK Spray will repel and kill gnats, flies, mosquitoes, and ticks.
You can also use our Summer Eczema Oral Supplement to help soothe your horses irritated skin. This supplement is made of natural herbs to support your horse's immune system to stop the itch. For active cases this should be used twice a day for thirty days, and for maintenance it should be used once a day for sixty days.
Topical Medical Treatments For Summer Eczema
In combination with our prevention and management products, we also provide topical treatments that should be used on your horse during a Summer Eczema outbreak.
Our Map Skin Shampoo is completely natural and it helps remove crusts and bacterial debris that has been caused by gnat bites. This shampoo should be used to bathe your horse three times a week for at least four weeks, or until your horse's skin has improved. During these dry heat seasons where culicoides gnats and other biting bugs are present it is very important to keep up with your horses hygiene and bathing routine. Horse urine attracts flies over thirty times greater than other large animals, and you can cut down on exposure by removing the attraction.
The Quadrabiotic Enzyme Ointment is a mixture of four medications to create a soothing cream that should be used to massage the red patchy areas on your horse to treat their infected/raw/swollen skin. Using our Map Skin Shampoo in addition to our Quadrabiotic Enzyme Ointment will give your horse the best possible chance to gain back their comfort. Click here for more information on our Summer Eczema 4 Step Program.