Managing the problem
Managing your horse’s comfort and well-being is all you can do – but there is hope. “Bio-Plus capsules , an immune therapy product, help to self-correct the immune system when it’s been compromised,” explains Alison Price, from the National Sweet Itch Centre. “It may not completely relieve the symptoms, but feeding just one tablet a week can lower the severity of a reaction to a bite and in turn reduce your horse’s desire to itch.” Some vets treat sweet itch by injecting corticosteroids into the horses’ bloodstream. “Corticosteroids depress the immune system and bring temporary relief but there can occasionally be side effects, including laminitis,” says Mark, “but don’t rule them out.” “It’s vital to start managing the condition before the midges come out,” adds Alison. “This can be as early as mid-February. If you can prevent your horse from being bitten you stand a much better chance of controlling the symptoms over the following months.” Currently, researchers at Benchmark, who develop new vaccines to keep animals healthy, are working with the Swiss biotech company Evax AG to develop a vaccine. It’s still in the early stages and the vaccine needs to be extensively trialled, but it’s hoped that, if successful, the vaccine will be available as a treatment option in 2020.