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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