Cowboy's story just gets more and more complicated. For the last week, since his severe HSS episode, he has wanted to be in his stall. I'd let him out at night, sometimes force him out against his will, but by morning with the early sun, the head shaking would have already resumed. (This was suspicious to me since the sun had only been out for an hour or less).
Yesterday I went out and he was antsy, for the first time, to get OUT of his stall. I switched out his fly mask for a much thicker one and figured I'd give him a try. Off he went! He ran out of there as happy as I'd seen him in a LONG time.
My husband and I set out on the deck and watched him all evening. And what did we see? Intense belly rubbing. I'd seen it a couple times before during the week, but this was just crazy belly itching...dragging his belly along the ground. Sweet itch?
Let's see, it is caused by an allergy to the saliva of Culicoides midges (small flies)...we have a lot of flies in the pasture where the neighbor's huge herd lives, but few in the barn because of fly predators we release...Cowboy prefers the barn. I have seen lots of "small flies" on the horses lately. CHECK. Sweet itch is sometimes brought on by stressful injuries, Cowboy's arthritis has been getting worse. CHECK. Sweet itch can cause head shaking. CHECK. Sweet itch can be considered a debilitating condition that makes a horse unsound. CHECK. Sweet itch can change the personality of your horse. CHECK. The first signs of Sweet Itch usually show up in Autumn, Cowboy's started last fall. Check. The flies are at their worst in early morning and dusk, Cowboy was head-tossing in the early mornings. Check.
Questions I have: Why wasn't there belly rubbing before this? Now that I think of it, there was some tail rubbing. Was that sweet itch? And, why was he striking at his face? Why did sun seem to aggravate it? Were the flies worse on the day he had the incident? There was a lot of standing water at that time because of an malfunctioned automatic waterer. I guess Culicoides breed in standing water.
The mystery is definitely deepening, but each day yields more information. There are still a couple things that are not entirely explained by this so I'll continue to look for answers. Until I know, I'm not taking Cowboy out on the trails. We'll be riding around here and I'll be finishing the training of my fillies. My friends are going to come by and "spot" me (be around to jump in and help if needed).
Here are some suggestions I found for helping Sweet Itch.
--Apply fly spray every day or throughout the day. Regular fly spray may not be affective so look for DEET in the ingredients. I'm putting OFF on my finger and rubbing it into the ear as they'll allow me to.
-Use fly sheets that tie around the belly.
-Add cider vinegar to the horse's feed.
-Apply small amounts of Avon's Skin So Soft bath oil to the most vulnerable areas.
-Apply menthol products, such as Vick's VapoRub or a cheaper generic version, to susceptible areas.
-Feed the horse about 2 tablespoons of garlic powder two times a day to make his sweat smell garlicky and repel the flies.
-Braid Bounce or another brand of scented dryer sheets into the horse's mane and tail, and rub them over the horse.
--Apply SWAT to the belly.
--Keep the barn area dry and as free from flies as you possibly can.
Look at these pictures..it's Beautiful three years ago. I posted about it. Click here. I think, looking back at the stress she was under being wild and in a new home, it was a case of sweet itch. She hasn't shown signs of it since then.