Let me start by outlining the reason I'm reluctant to have the vet out -- maybe this was not characteristic and I need to adjust my thinking. A friend had an itchy horse. I define "itchy" (based on friend's experience and my own) as being intense enough to cause horse to rub out mane, get splinters, maybe even cause edema from the pressure and friction of scratching.
Vet said it was probably allergies. An allergy test was done that was inconclusive. My friend still went with allergy shots, which are also inconclusive. If this is what is going to happen to me -- ugh.
So as you can probably tell I have a couple of itchy horses. I have looked for lice. I have changed feeds -- none of my horses get processed feeds anyway. They do not have worm issues. The itch is mainly neck/mane and butt. I do not see any lumps or bumps until the scratching itself causes them.
I have NOT done anything topical -- would you? Any good product that has given relief? Would you dust with lice powder based on how hard (apparently) they are to see? Also, I don't bathe my horses frequently -- could plain dirt cause itchiness? All of my horses love to roll and grind the dirt in, but only a couple have the itchy horrors.
And what SHOULD I expect from a vet visit? Are allergy shots the only non-topical treatment? I imagine human Benadryl would get costly -- is there a livestock-labeled equivalent? All wisdom will be appreciated.
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can't help with most of your questions, but my horses do sometimes itch pretty aggressively if I don't rinse them off routinely in this hot weather. They get sweaty, the sweat dries and gets itchy apparently no matter how much they roll. In hot humid weather (ie the last 5 weeks straight) my horses get hosed (no soap, just cold water hose) then good curry while wet, then all the ick hosed off, at least 3-4 times per week else they start rubbing on stuff and threatening to destroy the fencing.
After a hosing, I use calmcoat on the areas where midges like to land, face, neck, chest, armpits, midline, sheath, between hams, under tail. My BO turned me onto calmcoat and I like it quite a bit.
One of my geldings came up today with chiggers on his legs and some on his face, he was miserable. Pine tar soap washing and then calmcoat on top.
I have never had itching to the point of edma though.
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You can ask your vet about hydroxizine. It's an anti-histamine for horses. Kind of expensive but lasts a long time. Another thing to try is a double dose of ivermectrin. Then another double dose 2 to 4 weeks later. A friend did this and it helped her sweet itch horse alot. I would suggest consulting your vet about this first as a precaution...as I have a horse that's sensitive to dewormer (and vaccinations). What has worked well for my horses...one that gets seasonal hives and one that is just prone to itchiness is feeding dried nettle leaf daily. Keeps the hives away and cuts the itchiness in half. Cheap, easy, and full of vitamins and minerals--Suggested by a holistic vet that's also a master herbalist. mountainroseherbs.com is a good source for organic, very fresh herbs at a good price.
My five-year old has midge/no-see-um allergy and his belly can get scabby. He has learned to scratch his sheath on the hard ground and sometimes has a raw spot. He sheath will get stocked from it.
I had the area biopsied and it was "celluoides allergy" (or whatever midges are called!). I did the equimax double dose routine a couple times with no results (however he does get wormed every six weeks or he will rub his tail).
A second vet visit a couple years later resulted in "can't do much about it except anti-histamines" and I didn't want to keep him on drugs.
The only relief that I found that is working well is Vaseline + hydrocortizone cream + camphophenique + zinc oxide all mixed together and applied every couple days. There is a Horse Journal recipe that is similar using Calm Coat and Camphophenique, but the Calm Coat made it more watery than I wanted. Using this, his hair grows back, but if I don't apply it, he's back to itchy/scabby!
I might try adding Prep H next batch -- it is really the vaseline and Campho-phenique that are key.
For a cheap try at topical, try Medi-cleen shampoo by Lambert-Kay. One of the active ingredients is salicylic acid. I used to use it on my Shar-pei when they got icky itchy skin. It worked wonders- better than any other expensive medicated shampoos, and I tried several.
Well my first thought is that the neck is below the mane and the butt is very near the tail. So if one were to use any particular hair product on the mane and the tail, and if the horse was sensitive or allergic to that product, then that might cause them to want to scratch their neck and their butt.
Otherwise I think it's unusual for two horses to develop the same itchy symptoms (developed at the same time?), and I'd be looking for a common cause for the symptoms for both horses.
You can try some benadryl (Sam's and Costco have the best prices, by far). You have to give about 20 pills to an average horse though, and it's short-lived.
Before I moved to the land of no moisture, and thus few bugs, I had to keep my gelding in a fly sheet 24/7 for about 6 months out of the year. He had to have a neck cover too. Desitin (walmart brand) worked well on the armpits, sheath, etc. Fly spray liberally. Wash with Seventh Generation Lavender and Mint dish soap, rinse well, condition entire coat.
If that fails, the only other thing that helped mine was a big shot of steroids once or twice a summer. Like 20cc of dex. Vetalog is better for mine, though the vet here doesn't stock it. Orally is a waste of money, needs to be IM.
Another vote for flax.
But I keep Tri-hist around because a few times when mosquitoes swarmed real bad, my mare breaks out in hives. The Tri-hist makes them go away within an hour.
I see no problem 'keeping a horse on drugs' for bad allergies. I am on them myself from now until grain harvest is over. Miserable without antihistamines.