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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar. 19, 2010

    Default Midges still active? Another itchy thread with nutrition questions

    Sorry but I didn't want this to get buried in the NTW thread. Just so everybody knows, the vet will be here in about 2 weeks to examine him but I want to get a jump on the problem if I can.

    Just brought in an 18YO gelding who seems to have an abnormal itching situation going on. Overall in good physical condition with glossy coat. He is an OTTB with sensitive skin, but this seems to have been going on for an extended period of time (at least 2 years) and of course spikes during the peak summer months.

    He has trouble itchy spots:
    mane (about an 8 inch span)
    tail, upper portion
    sheath (literally lifts his leg and scrapes this with his teeth)
    but honestly itchy ALL OVER

    He also has been RAPIDLY CONSUMING his white salt block.

    I think I may be looking at multiple sources of this problem. Thinking he has a combination of nutritional deficiencies, NTW, and of course sensitivities to midges.

    The reason I am posting is because I am thinking the midges should really be dormant by now? Temps here in Central Florida dipping nightly into upper 50's with some nights into the high 40's already.

    Current plan: start on flax, do the worming rotation with vets blessing, evaluate feed regimen

    Any comments are welcome. Especially regarding feed. he is currently on Strategy Healthy Edge which seems to be a low protein content (12.5%) for a horse of his age that will be required to work even lightly. Don't they need a higher protein % to build/retain muscle at that age?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar. 19, 2010


    bumping up

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct. 18, 2011


    i read constantly about this because i have one that i have never found a solution for.

    i give him benedryl tabs every couple of days - vet said it is ok. does it help??? does any of it help???? i dont know.....good luck with it all.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb. 1, 2012


    Its my understanding that the reaction to the midges is because they go after any open skin that the horse has created from rubbing (because of the NTW). So, horse has NTW, scratches, opens the skin in the form of scratching sores, and the midges go to town on that. So, its not really the midges that are the problem, but their attack on the sores that were created because of the NTW problem.

    I would directly treat for the NTW and see what happens.
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May. 25, 2003
    Orlean, Virginia

    Thumbs up jmho!

    Midges active whenever other bugs are! They are gnats! Like flies, skeeters, bees etc.
    I'm guessing all year long in Florida.
    Remember, the itching is the result of a generalized systemic allergic reaction to the bug bites. Theoretically all it'd take is ONE! Treatment might include systemic antihistamines (like Atarax) or steroids or allergy shots... but....most of us find prevention can minimize the reaction. Try to prevent the bites. Subject well covered so do a thread search. A lot of wise things are suggested.
    I've had decent luck w/ground flax seed, flyspray/fly sheets, lotsa vaseline over midline/jaw & common bite areas.
    I don't think the salt thing is related. If you're worried about it then just go to measured salt in his feed rather than free choice. I gotta think they need/like a lotta salt in florida. Sometimes salt deprived horses will pig out on it for awhile when they finally get it. Usually levels out after a few weeks.

    Whats NTW? Just when I think I know all our "COTH Speak"!!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr. 28, 2009


    NTW = neck thread worms

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar. 9, 2003
    Baldwin, MD


    It sounds like pretty classic Culicoides hypersensitivity to me ("Sweet Itch"). You described the classic pattern - mane, tail, midline - that Culicoides targets. There's a good bit of management you can do for this - putting a fan on the horse to keep the bugs away (and not a gentle breeze box fan - you gotta get the big metal power fan with some real air output), keeping a light sheet on if possible, turning out during periods of the day when bugs are least active (they are MOST active at dawn and dusk), using LOTS of fly spray etc (I like "Bug Off" wipe-on product - it's a more concentrated permethrin product than some of the others, and you can wipe it directly on and around the affected areas).

    Additionally, someone at my barn purchased a product for her gelding that gets summer sores every year. They were little "anklets" that you put on the horses legs that were impregnated with some kind of insect repellant. She said they worked well, as he didn't get summer sores. I kind of worry that they would be easily lost in a field, and might cause irritation/rubbing when you put them on.

    Feeding-wise, adding Omega-3's in some form (flax, oil, what have you) seems to help, like you mentioned. Some people swear by adding a cup or two of cider vinegar to the feed. I haven't used that method myself, but anecdotally it seems to help.

    Medically, dexamethasone REALLY helps these horses. You typically start out with a high dose and wean them down to the lowest dose possible that controls their itching. My older mare pretty gets low-dose dex ALL summer every summer, or else she gets to the point that she's so miserable from the itching she stops eating. Steroids do have some side effects, so make sure to discuss those with your vet.

    As far as feeding goes, the two most common reasons horses consume a lot of salt is because they NEED it (from excessive sweating, which a Florida climate can cause), or because they just LIKE it. Equine kidneys have a remarkable ability to conserve salt, so rarely are horses clinically hyponatremic.

    Feeding protein in the horse is really kind of superfluous - they get their necessary amount from forage alone, if a forage of high enough quality and quantity is supplied. Everyone gets all worried about protein content, but unless your horse is in a VERY high level of work (racing, endurance, high level eventing), additional protein supplementation through concentrated feed isn't necessary. There have even been recent studies suggesting that forage-only diets for racehorses provide better muscle recovery because the protein content in forage is more bioavailable and useful to muscle recovery than that in a concentrated feed.

  8. #8


    How much feed is he getting? if you are feeding below the recommended levels of grain then he isn't getting the recommended levels of vitamin and minerals.
    for more Joy then you can handle

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun. 25, 2004


    Sounds like midges and agree, if other bugs are about so are they.

    Three things
    1) the horses's system is reacting to the "venom" or midges serum and that can take a while to settle down. Look at anti-histamines to counter his overwhelmed system
    2) Rinse and treat the affected areas. You have to experiment because what worked for mine may irritate yours. What I used is Campho+Phenol (generic or name brand) mixed in plain petroleum jelly. Heavy dose on midline, lightly on mane and tail areas.
    3). Prime feeding for midges in SC is around 4pm till 9am. So my very sensitive gelding is out during the day and up at night. If not feasible, then get a fly sheet with neck cover, tail cover and belly strap. I use the Rambos and they have held up well. Also, so far, no bugs caught under the sheets.
    "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
    Courtesy my cousin Tim

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan. 25, 2013


    I have a friesian gelding born on my farm that has severe sweet itch.
    In the early years I spent a fortune on remedies and finally
    Reluctantly did steroid injections, trying to get away with the least
    Possible. Did buy the Boett blanket and it works but is heavy and hot.
    By accident discovered that Shapely's MTG works if always slathered
    On each site the midges go after. It totally and completely works.
    Those midges will be 1/8" from his tasty sheath and not land with no
    Fly sheet at all on. I am still in awe of this success. Shapelys is putting out
    MTG that does not smell like sulphur. I pray they offer the stinky one
    Just in case the nice smling one doesnt work. I also feed flax seed whole
    Wet but not soaked to boost the immune system.

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