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How to Treat Sweet Itch, Summer Sores and Bug Bites in Horses

June 11, 2020 4 min read

Summer is in full swing, and equestrians throughout the East Coast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest are rejoicing at the beautiful weather we’re now able to enjoy. Sorry to our friends in the scorching South and Southwest, stay cool down there!

While the sunshine and lack of snow or rain is great, it brings one major problem in a tiny package. Bugs. Deer flies. Gnats. Horse flies. Mosquitoes. Midges. Black-flies. Fleas. Ticks. So. Many. Bugs.

Not only are they irritating to keep away, but can cause serious issues in horses that have sensitive skin or are prone to breaking out. This can be a real headache for horse owners to deal with, especially when we’re spending our money on expensive fly spray, fly sheets and other bug deterrents.

We want our horses to enjoy this weather while it lasts, but how can we make that happen when an army of flying insects is constantly antagonizing them?

Here at COAT DEFENSE®, we’ve found a few ways to ease your summer ailments with our Powder and Paste. Read below to see how you can help keep your horse healthy, comfortable and happy this summer!

Sweet Itch in Horses

Sweet itch is the term used to describe equine insect hypersensitivity. This is a reaction to the insect saliva once it penetrates the skin, typically from swarms of tiny midges.

Signs of sweet itch usually appear 48-72 hours after being bitten, symptoms include…

  • Intense itchiness

  • Inflamed and red skin

  • Rubbing that causes hair loss, and crusty, weeping sores

  • Restlessness from chronic itch that causes weight loss and anxiousness

Recommended prevention routines include…

  • Limited turnout
  • Avoiding pasture time during dusk and dawn
  • Use fly sheets and fly sprays
  • Antihistamines or corticosteroids as needed

How does COAT DEFENSE® help ALLEVIATE sweet itch before it sets in?

  • COAT DEFENSE® daily PREVENTATIVE POWDER can be used daily to reduce the severity of bug bite reactions. Our Powder works by drawing out the insect salvia that causes swelling and itch. It helps keep rashes and hives to a minimum, and provides a healthy environment that allows skin to breathe and create natural oils
  • COAT DEFENSE® TROUBLE SPOT DRYING PASTE can be smeared on sensitive, bite prone areas to provide a BARRIER bugs can’t penetrate, along the belly line, under the jaw, and other trouble spots

How does COAT DEFENSE® work to RELIEVE the symptoms of existing sweet itch?

  • COAT DEFENSE® daily PREVENTATIVE POWDER can be sprinkled all over on to help calm and relieve compromised skin and provide relief to areas
  • By creating a “scab” over weeping sores and welts, COAT DEFENSE® TROUBLE SPOT DRYING PASTE protects the raw sweet itch sores from external agents or bugs, all while drawing out the toxins from insect saliva, reducing swelling while soothing itchiness and pain, and allowing skin cells to repair themselves faster and without interference

Pro-tip: Thin COAT DEFENSE® TROUBLE SPOT DRYING PASTE with witch hazel or water to spread a thin layer on bite prone areas to create a shield against biting insects.

A flysheet can help reduce the risk of sweet itch in horses.

How to Treat Summer Sores in Horses

Summer sores are the result of insect larvae infecting a wound. This is an unsightly, messy issue can become a serious infection if left untreated. Ridding them is usually a two step approach, from the inside with dewormers such as ivermectin, and outside with prescription medicated creams.

COAT DEFENSE® TROUBLE SPOT DRYING PASTE has effectively treated summer sores in horses, no prescription needed. See Zem’s video below to hear about how he recovered with some help from COAT DEFENSE®, when prescriptions failed…

A tiny scrape or bug bite can turn into a nasty summer sore virtually in the blink of an eye. Preventative measures can help you avoid these situations, however, if your horse develops a summer sore, you want to make sure it’s treated before it worsens. A summer sore is a wound that is classified by the fly larvae that infects the open area.

Once the wound has been relieved of the invaders, you simply apply COAT DEFENSE® TROUBLE SPOT DRYING PASTE to the affected area and protect the area by keeping it clean and clear of bugs. Do not wash the paste off daily, allow it to sit and begin to flake off on its own before rinsing and reapplying.

The best way to prevent summer sores in horses is to keep insect populations in and around the barn as low as possible. Clean stalls and small pastures often. Use bait and traps to keep insects away from horses. Use fly sheets and fly spray to minimize exposure to larva. Any open wounds should be wrapped or covered with COAT DEFENSE® TROUBLE SPOT DRYING PASTE to create a protective barrier.

How to Treat Horse Fly Bites in Horses

Bugs are a real nuisance for any horse, be sure to inspect before and after turnout for any bites that have become inflamed, are bleeding or causing discomfort.

Fly bites in horses are nasty things. They hurt and typically bleed, all while driving our horses absolutely wild. These bites tend to become large bumps with scabs on the head, and can take their good ole’ time to heal.

In order to treat fly bites in horses, apply COAT DEFENSE® TROUBLE SPOT DRYING to the clean scabs, and reapply as necessary. This will help draw out toxins and enable healing, along with creating a protective barrier.

To prevent horse fly bites in horses, follow the same guidelines as above by using fly sheets and sprays, cleaning stalls and pastures to remove manure and breeding grounds for flies, turning out at times when flies and insects are low, and using COAT DEFENSE® daily PREVENTATIVE POWDER on the coat to alleviate future reactions.

Now that you have some insight on how to treat and prevent summer sores, sweet itch and bug bites in horses, get out and enjoy your summer! For many of us, it won’t last long, so we have to make the best of it. Keep your horse safe, comfortable, happy and healthy during these warm days by adding a little COAT DEFENSE® to your daily routine. From all of us here at COAT DEFENSE®, Happy Trails!

Emily Schwartz
Emily Schwartz


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