Symptoms of Sweet Itch

  • This hypersensitivity reaction develops at the site where the insects feed.
  • The most common areas are the mane,tail,along the spine and  forelock.
  • Lesions around the ears and head are also common.
  • Other areas affected in more severe cases are the mid-line of the belly, sheath, udder and even legs.
  • These lesions are characterised by intense itching, which results in rubbing and considerable self trauma which can cause:
    • Broken Hair
    • Thickening of the skin
    • Flaky dandruff
    • Broken skin and sores
    • Secondary infections may result
  • The horse will swish its tail vigorously and pace up and down.
  • Roll more than normal and rub on anything within reach.
  • They may sit like a dog and propel themselves around to scratch the top of their tail and also drag themselves along the ground to scratch their belly.
  • Lethargy with frequent yawning and a change of temperament.


Sweet-itch is a hypersensitivity reaction to specific allergens (protein molecules) in the saliva of species of Culicoides biting midges. This results in an immune-mediated production of inflammatory cytokines resulting in  swelling and intense itching of the skin.

Managing Sweet Itch?   Learn more