Products Help Fight Back Against Sweet Itch

Summer is the itchy season, but there are some products that can bring your horse relief from sweet itch.
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
Summer can be the itchy season for some horses, but there are products you can use to help ward off insects that cause skin irritation. | Photo by Darrell Dodds

Summer can be the itchy season for some horses, but there are products you can use to help ward off insects that cause skin irritation. | Photo by Darrell Dodds

Is your horse suffering from sweet itch (a common skin condition usually brought on by an allergy to nearly invisible gnats, or midges)? Here's a sampling of tried-and-true products--including costs and contact information--that will give your horse sweet relief.

INSECT REPELLENTS:

Avon Skin-So-Soft

Active Ingredients: Skin conditioners and emollients

How to Use: Dilute 1:3 with water; spritz on affected areas or entire horse as needed (avoid saddle area--it'll get slippery).

Advantages: Nontoxic; works well to repel biting insects even though it's sold as a human bath oil; pleasant non-chemical fragrance.

Disadvantages: Oily residue, necessitating shampoo within two to three days of use.

Cost: About $12.50 for a 16-oz. bottle.

Contact: Avon Inc., (800) FOR-AVON to order, or for a distributor near you.

CLAC 86

Active Ingredients: Essential oils and glycerin.

How to Use: Dilute 1:7 with water; spray on affected areas or entire horse as needed.

Advantages: All natural; nontoxic; can be used generously and often; nice odor; works well; no oily residue; concentrate (dilute 1:7) is a bargain.

Disadvantages: Made in Germany and you may have to search a bit to find it. Check online or at Big Ds.

Cost: About $30 for a 32-oz. bottle of concentrate, diluted 1:7 or 1:4 in water.

Contact: Whitman Saddle Col, 800-253-0852 to order, or for a distributor near you.

Gold Nugget Gnat-Away

Active Ingredients: Herbal extracts and emollients in a vanishing cream base.

How to Use: Apply to affected areas as needed.

Advantages: All natural; nontoxic; nice odor; works well; no oily residue.

Disadvantages: Too expensive to use on entire horses, so reserve it for spot-treating much-bothered and sensitive areas, such as your horse's face and ears; not widely distributed-you may have to search to find it.

Cost: About $9 to $12 for a 16-oz. jar of cream.

Contact: Neogen, 800-621-8829 to order, or for a distributor near you.

Shapley's M-T-G

Active Ingredients: Skin conditioners and emollients.

How to Use: Apply to affected areas as needed.

Advantages: Nontoxic; works well to repel biting insects, even though there are no label claims to this effect; also helps heal affected skin.

Disadvantages: Unpleasant "mineral" smell (like selenium); oily residue necessitates weekly shampoos.

Cost: About $14.95 for a 32-oz. bottle.

Contact: Henry E. Shapley, Ltd, 800-982-2017 to order, or for a distributor near you.

INSECTICIDES:

Commercial Fly Sprays and Wipes

Active Ingredients: Various concentrations of pyrethrins, carbaryl or piperonyl butoxide.

How to Use: Spray or wipe according to label instructions.

Advantages: All do a fair job of killing and repelling flies and gnats; they vary mainly in the strength of pyrethrins (1/2 to 2 percent) or other active chemicals in their formulas--generally the stronger formulations are supposed to last longer.

Disadvantages: All are weakened by rain, profuse sweating, bathing, rinsing or rolling in wet grass; potential for toxicosis due to too-frequent and/or heavy applications (read the label for maximum application rate).

Cost: $5-$20 for a standard 32-oz. bottle.

Contact: Check labels for manufacturers' contact information.

Swat

Active Ingredients: Pyrethrins in an oil-based ointment.

How to Use: Apply directly to fly-strike areas.

Advantages: Can be applied on superficial wounds; has both insecticidal and repellent properties; thick ointment stays in place for many hours; new clear formulation is less visible than the pink original; very effective; widely available.

Disadvantages: Too expensive and thick to apply to whole horse; appropriate for spot-treating only, on wounds and ear tips; if applying to clipped ears, don't allow a glop to fall into your horse's ear canal.

Cost: About $8.95 for a 6-oz. jar.

Contact: Farnam, 800-234-2269 for a distributor near you.

SKIN SOOTHERS:

Absorbine Liniment

Active Ingredients: Menthol; natural herbs and extracts.

How to Use: Apply to itchy areas (but only if the skin isn't broken, or it will sting).

Advantages: Works well to soothe thickened, irritated skin typically seen on crest of the neck; seems to repel insects; widely available.

Disadvantages: Causes stinging when applied to broken skin, which lasts only a few minutes.

Cost: About $14 for a 1-quart bottle.

Contact: W.F. Young, Inc., 800-628-9653 for a distributor near you.

Aloe-Vera Gel

Active Ingredients: Aloe.

How to Use: Apply directly onto irritated skin.

Advantages: Inexpensive; widely available; doesn't cause residual build-up.

Disadvantages: Effects tend to be short-lived (about 2 hours).

Cost: $4 for a 16-oz. bottle.

Contact: Available in grocery stores, pharmacies, and health-food stores.

Capsaicin Cream

Active Ingredients: Capsicum, from hot red peppers.

How to Use: Apply directly to irritated, itchy areas.

Advantages: Proven to block the transmission of the "itch" or "pain" signal from the lesion to the brain for up to six hours; cumulative effects make it more effective with repeated use.

Disadvantages: Initially stings (stay with your horse at first to make sure he doesn't scratch or rub more), but the sting wears off quickly and decreases with repeated use.

Cost: About $8 for a 4-oz. jar of cream.

Contact: Available in grocery stores and pharmacies.

Cortisone Cream

Active Ingredients: Hydrocortisone.

How to Use: Apply directly to irritated skin.

Advantages: Helps relieve heat, inflammation, and itch on sensitive, thin-skinned areas.

Disadvantages: Much less effective over thicker-skinned areas in which the skin has been broken; expensive; can increase risk of infection.

Cost: $6 for a 3-oz. tube of cream.

Contact: Available in grocery stores and pharmacies.

Shapely's M-T-G

Active Ingredients: Skin conditioners and emollients.

How to Use: Apply directly to itchy/inflamed/abraded areas once or twice daily.

Advantages: In addition to soothing the inflammation and itch, skin conditioners help speed healing; also has some insect-repelling capabilities.

Disadvantages: Unpleasant "mineral" odor (like selenium); oily residue.

Cost: About $14.95 for a 32-oz. bottle.

Contact: Henry E. Shapley, Ltd, 800-982-2017 to order, or for a distributor near you.

Resiprox (Allerderm/Virbac

Active Ingredients: Oatmeal, pramoxine Hcl and skin conditioners.

How to Use: After bathing or wetting, apply as a leave-in conditioner, working well into your horse's coat, mane, and tail base.

Advantages: Effective in soothing the itch for up to 4 days; pleasant odor.

Disadvantages: Labeled for use on dogs and cats, not horses; expensive for use on horses; available only through your veterinarian.

Cost: About $10 for a 8-oz. bottle.

Contact: Available only through your veterinarian.

Witch Hazel

Active Ingredients: Hamamelis.

How to Use: Daub or spritz directly to irritated skin.

Advantages: Inexpensive; widely available; no oily residue.

Disadvantages: Effects tend to be short-lived (about 1 hour).

Cost: $1.50 for a 16-oz. bottle.

Contact: Available in grocery stores and pharmacies.