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QMy pony has started rub­bing his mane and tail. I sus­pect he has sweet itch, but how can I be sure and what can I do to stop the scratch­ing?


Wendy Find­lay says: Sweet itch is an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to the saliva of bit­ing midges, so ponies with sweet itch usu­ally start scratch­ing in the spring, but have no symp­toms dur­ing the win­ter months. You should get your vet to in­ves­ti­gate the cause of your pony’s rub­bing. It could be due to other treat­able causes, such as mange mites or bac­te­rial or fun­gal skin in­fec­tions. If sweet itch is con­firmed, man­age­ment cen­tres around keep­ing the midges away from your pony’s skin. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, us­ing a good sweet itch rug and in­sect re­pel­lent in early spring be­fore the itch/scratch cy­cle has started is the best strat­egy. If your pony is al­ready scratch­ing, keep­ing his skin clean and ap­ply­ing sooth­ing washes or creams can help re­lieve his dis­com­fort. Min­imise ex­po­sure to midges at dawn and dusk by stabling overnight and turn out in a well-drained field, away from stand­ing wa­ter. A breezy hill­side is ideal. Some peo­ple use elec­tric fenc­ing to pre­vent ac­cess to scratch­ing posts. There are a num­ber of feed sup­ple­ments and home­o­pathic reme­dies that may be use­ful, and your vet may rec­om­mend a steroid in­jec­tion to com­bat the ir­ri­ta­tion. At present there is no cure for sweet itch. How­ever, early im­ple­men­ta­tion of pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures at the start of the sea­son can help to keep symp­toms un­der con­trol.

A good sweet itch rug worn from early spring on­wards can help to al­le­vi­ate the con­di­tion

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