4 reasons why your horse has the itch

There can be many reasons why a horse may become itchy as the seasons change. These can be innocent, but it's best to try and determine the cause ASAP.


Excessive rubbing, bald patches or broken skin are all signs that a vet should be consulted, as Redwings Horse Charity vet Nicky Jarvis explains. 

1. Sweet Itch

Horses can be sensitive to insect bites and may develop allergies such as sweet itch. This is a reaction caused mainly from the bite of the Culicoides midge.

These mites love warm, humid conditions with plenty of rain, so are more prominent in spring, summer and autumn.

2. Lice

Horses can also carry ‘visitors’, such as lice, which are difficult to see with the naked eye. While some horses carry lice with few clinical signs, others are intensely itchy and become very distressed.

Lice are easily transferred by grooming equipment and rugs, so all of this should be treated if a case of lice is diagnosed.

3. Pinworm


The adult pinworm, an intestinal worm found near the rectum, can often be confused with sweet itch, and also affects the tail area. It has a long tail and uses this to lay eggs around the horse’s anus and surrounding skin.

The eggs and the sticky ‘glue’ used to adhere the eggs to the skin often make the horse very itchy and owners notice loss of tail hair and rub marks on the bottom.

4. Skin infections

Finally, horses can develop skin infections, especially when they have thick winter coats.

Call your vet to get a diagnosis and they’ll be able to rule out these major causes with simple checks and hair samples.

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