Top Tips: Preventing Sweet Itch


Dr Jim Rawlinson BVMS MBA MRCVS

Unfortunately, Henry, my 8-year-old Welsh C, is prone to sweet itch. This means we have to take extra precautions whenever the midges that cause it are active! This period can range from March to November depending on the weather, so for most of the year this is part of his regular routine. Here are the precautions we take to help prevent sweet itch:

  1. Fly rugs

Some ponies need to wear them 24/7, and we make sure that Henry is fully covered when he is turned out. We try to find styles that cover his girth and belly area, and he wears a full fly mask when dry. A close mesh weave rug designed specifically for sweet itch sufferers will help to minimise midge bites.

  1. Fly Spray

A full body spray with a good repellent is essential before turnout. I like one with DEET as the main active ingredient as It seems to work best for Henry and I always patch test if changing brands. If the challenge is high, I repeat application throughout the day. I also use a repellent cream around his sensitive areas including eyes, nose, ears, muzzle and sheath for added protection.

  1. Inside at dawn and dusk

Midges and biting insects are most active at dawn and dusk, so our routine means Henry is a stabled overnight. Although it’s tempting to leave him out on warm summer nights, we do make sure he’s in every evening, as it’s for his own good.

  1. Pasture Choice

Most of us can’t choose where we turnout. Last year we were at a yard whose summer fields were sheltered and right alongside a river. As midges thrive in damp areas, particularly standing water, it was not good for sweet itch. This year we have moved, and the summer fields are at the top of a hill and quite blustery. This is bad news for midges who simply cannot fly in windier weather, meaning Henry is much more comfortable.


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