What is Itchy Skin?
A horse with severely itchy skin will try to alleviate the itch at all costs. You may notice your horse rubbing against fences, hedges or bushes. It is very frustrating for your horse, as the skin is the largest organ, and covers the surface area of your horse’s body.
What Causes Itchy Skin?
There are many causes of overly itchy skin, but the main causes are:
- Parasitic infestation (mange, mites or rain rot)
- Skin diseases and conditions ( Eczema, allergies, Mange, dry skin, Dandruff)
- Poor diet
Note: Some more serious conditions may be underlying itchy skin. It is important to consult with your vet if you notice drastic changes in your horse’s coat. Excessive rubbing may lead to raw skin, or open wounds, which are then susceptible to infection.
Help for Itchy Skin
For a diagnosis, skin scrapings are useful in many cases, enabling the vet to check for lice and other skin parasites, such as mange mites. Skin samples can also be used to check for bacterial, yeast and fungal infections.
Treatment for itchy skin may include supplementing feeds, or topically applying medicated lotions. Keep in mind that medicated lotions may cause further discomfort (stinging) or may only make sensitive skin worse. Never apply human topical creams to your horse’s coat without consulting with your vet first. If parasitic infection is the cause, treatment will involve ridding your horse of the mites or parasites.
Flies may also irritate the skin – and lead to itchiness, so try to use a fly repellent that will not harm your horse. Steroids are often successfully used to combat the irritation; however these can come with side effects. Antihistamines can cause drowsiness and should be used with caution.
There are many natural herbal and homeopathic remedies that can help to promote skin health. Borage is a well-known herb high in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). This herb has been studied for its supportive effects on the skin and can help to support the production natural oils in the horse coat.
Horsetail has also been approved as an aid to wound healing by the German Commission E expert panel, while herbs such as Dandelion, Rosemary and Kelp can help to strengthen the immune system while nourishing the skin from the inside out.
Spirulina is a rich source of nutrients, containing up to 70% protein, B-complex vitamins, phycocyanin, chlorophyll, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and numerous minerals – helping to add nutrient value to a horse’s diet. Tagetes minuata (Khaki Bos) is an herb native to South Africa and is used by locals to discourage pests and flies. The added bonus of natural remedies, of course, is a stunning shine without the risk of side effects!