Insect Bite Hypersensitivity in Horses (IE Mine)

Aug 16, 2011 17 Comments by

Does this sound like your horse?

From “Insect bite hypersensitivity is the most common cause of pruritus (itchiness) in horses, affecting equids in almost all parts of the world,” van den Boom said in the study, adding that IBH is an allergic reaction to insect bites. Clinical signs include scratching and rubbing, excoriations (areas where the skin is rubbed off), oozing of serum, patchy alopecia (hair loss), scaling, and hyperkeratosis (callousing).” (article on ointments that can help bug bite sensitivity.)

It sounds like mine. Skin rubbed off – check. Oozing of serum – check. Hair loss – check. Callousing – check.

Apparently Insect Bite Sensitivity is an actual condition in horses, and Ace has more than a few of the symptoms. When I left for a week long beach vacation, Ace had a few bug bite callouses on his back that he’s had most of the summer. When I returned, he had two spots that looked like small wounds oozing serum – one on his neck and one on his belly. He has more calloused bumps than when I left. He also has a handful of small, hairless, scaly patches. It sounds like a lot when they are added up, but his symptomatic areas are small and generally not that noticeable unless you are grooming and looking for issues.

From what I can find, all advice for dealing with bug bite hypersensitivity has to do with preventing insect bites in the first place. Use fly spray, masks and sheets, feed through bug control supplements, and avoid turning out during the buggiest times of day. But what do you do to get rid of the pre-existing skin issues?

Horse owners of similarly-sensitive-skinned horses: go! What have you found to work for getting rid of callouses and other skin issues caused by insect bites in your hypersensitive horse?

Featured, Horse Care, Horse Ownership, Wynsome Ace

17 Responses to “Insect Bite Hypersensitivity in Horses (IE Mine)”

  1. Valerie says:

    Bag Balm and or Tea Tree Oil have worked for me when applied to bites as it is an antiseptic as well. Also a fly sheet and mask would help.

  2. Now That's A Trot! says:

    Usually flax seed and full-body fly armor are enough to keep Will mostly itch-free, but this year is pretty terrible! Due to the heat and mud I left his fly sheet off for about a month, since he seemed to adjust well… Then a big patch of hair around his right hindquarter fell off. ;P

    MicroTek was my weapon of choice against skin scruff, but it didn’t seem to make a dent this time around. So I picked up a bottle of Calm Coat ( to see if it helps at all… Other than leaving the area as clean and dry as possible (and sheeting him again, when the rain stops!) I’m trying not to fuss too much with it — a light spray of Calm Coat once a day. We’ll see! The stuff worked pretty well on my own mosquito bites, so I’m hoping it at least brings him some relief.

  3. Now That's A Trot! says:

    I also really love Corona ointment for small bites and scrapes… It’s soothing, regrows hair nicely, and seems to keep most of the bugs away!

  4. Jackie says:

    So far Calm Coat has the most votes when compiling from FB and comments here. Tea Tree Oil (works wonders on me) and Equispa Balm are also at the top of my list to check out.

    NTAT – good ideas for the scrapes and hairless spots and itch. But what about those lingering callouses? Think the ointments will work on those too? I’m most concerned about those because they are on his back where the saddle goes.

  5. Molly says:

    The Healing Tree Tea-Pro spray and T-Zone cream work absolute wonders for me. They were actually developed by a vet here in Oregon. I’m always amazed at how quickly I see improvement using them.

    I second the recommend on the Corona ointment too, especially for the callous type patches. I’d kind of written Corona off as old school but then I used it last summer to bring a hard dry spot back to life and it worked beautifully.

  6. Now That's A Trot! says:

    I wouldn’t use it for an active funk, like rain scald, but once the main source of irritation has been ID’d and treated, Corona is really great for fixing up those odd skin patches. It’s a bit “heavy,” so I take a smaller dab than I think I’ll need and just spread it thinly over the spot, which seems to help stimulate healing as well. Early on in our relationship, Willie had tack fitting problems that resulted in calloused spots on his withers (I still cringe to think of it!) but once the fitting problems were resolved, Corona helped heal them up quickly!

    A single jar or tube of the stuff does go a long way — I bought a $7 tube about 4-5 years ago, and still haven’t reached the bottom, despite Will being accident prone and spending two years living in a large herd that regularly marked him up.

  7. Jackie says:

    Thanks Molly and NTAT! I picked up a small jar of Corona and some CalmCoat topical spray last night (Molly – they didn’t carry the one you recommended in my store). My poor boy was covered in bug bites. I used both on different spots to see which works best for Ace. Poor guinea pig!

  8. Annette says:

    My horse was attacked by ants and his sheer panic over it required an emergency vet visit. I was told to wash him with an iodine and aloe shampoo. I didn’t find that, so I combined betadine and aloe shampoo, then rinsed/left on a betadine/conditioner combo, and of course lots of bug spray. The bites never got infected, but did get peely and his skin was extremely itchy. Other bites have had worse results, so the combination of a Dex shot and the bathing seemed to have helped!

  9. Taylor says:

    Luck has IBH, but she’s also allergic to bug spray, so I use Avon Skin So Soft on the exposed parts of her (she is also in a nose to tail fly mask/hood/sheet… or as I call it, her “body armor”). While it doesn’t keep the bugs away, it’s supposed to create a thin film over the ends of the fur/hair that doesn’t allow any bugs to bite through. So far, it has worked really well against flies/mosquitoes, but even it doesn’t stand a chance against the huge horse flies we have here. (Although not much does, so…)

  10. Niki says:

    I use a cotton rug with neck and tail guard on Alfie during the day, rather than a fly sheet, and have him stabled when the bugs are out in force. Then I use a sweet-itch ointment on his tail and crest, which seems to stop him rubbing himself raw (even though he doesn’t have sweet itch, there must be something soothing in it). At night he is out with an unlined canvas rug (literally made of canvas) – nothing can bite through that! When I hose him down, I use tea tree oil. It’s not the perfect solution, but he seems a lot happier and less patchy now!

  11. Tammy Ford says:

    I use skin so soft ogrinal lotion by Avon it protects and helps heal and prevent itching. Plus it can be put on the face and any sensitive area. I also use vasiline for regrowth of hair on scratchs and old wounds. This really dose work. no lie, but it has to be the petroleum based vasiline.

  12. Lisanne says:

    ok here you go kids….i have ahorse that loses his tail and mane, not itchy, not oozie, no bumps on his body, just the hair loss. I have tried all the above (and then some) and nothing seems to help. Any suggestions?

  13. Anne says:

    Lisanne, shapley’s MTG !!!! Look it up, it works wonders.

  14. Lisa says:

    I have been using a feed thru supplement since the end of last summer with some good results. Although the fly problem is a constant battle all summer long. I still use fly masks and fly spray along with the feed thru supplements because every little bit I can do helps.


  15. Sophia ohsoquiet says:

    The horse at my farm often get infected and keeps rubbing,scratching his skin at the back and tail.I usually wash it with any antiseptic lotion like beta-dine and apply the soothing eucalyptus oil.He seems very satisfied and it pacifies his irritation temporarily.But I wanted to find a long term solution for it as one can’t avoid flies and insects in summers.I came across this post co-coincidently and found the post as well as the comments very informative.I will try to use supplements in the feed from next time and keep checking the result.

  16. Long Tyler says:

    I own a horse and has mentioned in one of the comments, he keeps losing his tail and mane a lot. There is not much of itching or scratching. I tried some antiseptic lotion, but it was of no use. Could anybody help me out here?

  17. kaylee just ames says:

    I owe a small farm of animals like horse,sheep and cattle and have found that they often fall sick to insect biting and skin infections.Horses keep getting red and yellow rashes on the skin and they used to whine out of pain.I tried few antiseptic lotions recommended by a veterinary doctor but it didn’t do any good to them. Recently I have started using medicinal oil made of herb and feeding them supplementary proteins.This trick is proving quite effective on horses.The skin rashes have almost reduced and the animals look very comfortable with it.

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