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Sweetitch or otherwise?
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SuziQ
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 Posted: Tue Apr 10th, 2012 09:32 pm
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Hi Dr Deb and everyone,

I would really appreciate any input for help with my horse.

I have a 16-year old mare who has had sweetitch for as long as I have had her (9 years). I have previously kept it under control with fly repellent, barrier rugs and keeping her inside during periods with alot of midges.

Last June, she started scratching her buttocks and over a 36 hour period scratched under her tail under it was completely raw. The vet diagnosed pinworm and she was treated with invermectin initially, then pripsen and then finally an intra-anal dose of ivermectin, all over a 6 week period. The result of this was no more identifiable pinworm but symptoms and scratching remained and it got so bad that I had to keep her away from her field shelter or anything she could scratch on, which was miserable in the height of summer. I also treated her with an anti-fungal treatment and topical steroids with no effect. About 1 week after the final dose of ivermectin she developed swelling in all 4 limbs, which the vet diagnosed as infection and treated with antibiotics and bute. And following this all her scratching disappeared also. The vet then thought that she possibly had a skin infection which caused the scratching after the initial pinworm infection.

However, in the last 3 days she has started scratching again under her tail. The top of her tail is unaffected it is just the buttocks and underneath her tail and looks similar to last year.

I am desperate to stop it getting as bad as last year but am unsure if this could be a recurrence of pinworm or an atypical presentation of sweetitch. Has anyone else experienced any of these symptoms before?

Any thought would be greatly apreciated.

Thanks

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Apr 10th, 2012 11:28 pm
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Suzi, pinworm is the most likely culprit. The Ivermectin likely did not cause the swelling in the limbs, so you have no reason to fear using it. Speak to your vet again immediately about another course, but understand that Ivermectin has little or no activity against pinworms. Your vet should be well aware of this; you must use another type of wormer to clean up pinworms.

It sounds like a skin infection was also part of the problem, but I would certainly ask the vet to take skin scrapings to look for sarcoptic mange or some other form of mange. Manges are caused by tiny mites of various species, but mange is often accompanied by or followed by either fungal or bacterial infection.

Talk to your vet immediately, or if you no longer believe in the vet you had been using, then get a second opinion, but don't delay. -- Dr. Deb

SuziQ
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 Posted: Wed Apr 11th, 2012 08:15 pm
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Thanks, Dr Deb. The vet also thinks it is a recurrence of pinworm. I was interested that ivermectin is not effective against pinworm as so many of the wormers claim that it is. Could you point me in the direction of some research for effective wormers against pinworm? The vet has recommended piperazine phosphate powder as a start and then will come and take skin scrapings if the itching doesn't stop.

My other question is, is there anyway of preventing this from happening again? My horses are on a regular deworming program and we poo-pick the fields on a daily basis. No other horses are affected.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Apr 11th, 2012 10:36 pm
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Strongid used to be the wormer of choice against pinworms, but strongid's effectiveness has been compromised over the last 20 years by the patent-holding company's efforts to get people to worm with it on a low-dose, every-day basis, thus producing an industry-wide problem of strongid-resistant worms. This has been particularly devastating to the hog industry but affects horses as well. So, your vet's best recommendation other than ivermectin for pinworms is what you should follow.

As to recurrences: since ivermectin isn't effective against pinworms, and you have been worming with ivermectin, the obvious response would be to get your horses on a rotation program where you don't use ivermectin every time. This is the general industry recommendation anyway.

Also, I'd be having the manure tested or sampled for parasite eggs, so you get a real handle on how big your problem is and which horses are actually affected. You might have a wider infestation than you realize -- not all horses that are parasite carriers are symptomatic. See the recent Equus Magazine article on this very subject.

As to mange, let's see what the skin scrapings show; if none of the other horses seems to have 'mangy'-looking lesions, then that might be fungal, and the scrapings should show up whatever it is. Once you have definitive test results, then you and your vet will be in a much better position to know what course to take. -- Dr. Deb

Kathy in Iowa
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 Posted: Thu Apr 12th, 2012 06:55 am
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This may seem very simplistic but I have one mare that has similar issues in the spring and summer. After watching her mangle cedar trees with her rear end and itching and gouging herself til she bled I decided that her tail was simply dry. She reacted to having me scratch her tail in an almost manic way so I deduced dry skin.I bought a $.79 bottle of mineral oil and doused her entire tail working it into the skin. Problem solved. No more crazed itching. May not be your mare's problem but just sharing my experience.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 12th, 2012 07:40 am
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Kathy, I appreciate your experience but suspect you may have simply suffocated mites and/or fungus, and thus merely put the problem off, as topical or symptomatic treatment is prone to do. 'Manic' or frantic scratching, to the point of bleeding, is not a usual accompaniment of skin that is merely dry; although the skin may ALSO be dry, whatever other problems may be there. It's important to encourage people to pursue an actual diagnosis, getting to the real root of the problem -- and to be willing to spend the money to accomplish that.

If your mare's skin was indeed simply dry, but yet the problem recurred every spring, does this not beg the question as to why the skin would be dry, if dry it was? In other words, even if the problem were only dry skin, we would want to know what was causing it, because there might be other health implications, i.e. the dry skin is a symptom of something more global. If my gelding was scratching so hard that he bled, I would certainly be calling my vet. -- Dr. Deb

pswitez
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 Posted: Thu Apr 12th, 2012 03:38 pm
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I have a horse that would rub himself raw at the tail head too. It got progressively worse every year. The problem started when he was about three years old. It got to the point my vet put him on a steroid(every three days) to prevent the itching, allergic reaction to gnats(was his guess). I didn't like it but felt I had no choice. I did not give him spring shots last year and he did not have any itching problems. Now I have to decide what to do about his shots this year! 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 12th, 2012 08:41 pm
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Dear PS: Consult with your vet -- there's an old adage in science that goes, "correlation is not causation". In other words, the not-giving of shots might have nothing actually to do with the cessation of the itching.

It is very dangerous, not only to your own horse but to any horses stabled nearby, for you to not give the usual spring shots. In fact, if you're at a boarding stable this is usually required, and if you don't give the shots, you can't keep your horse among the others there.

What I would do is this: (1) Figure out what the absolute minimum number and kind of shots has to be; i.e. there are usually some 'optional' shots such as rabies that might not need to be given per your particular area, or that if not given pose a danger only to your own horse. (2) Ask the vet for alternative serum preparations. It will not be to the immunizing agent, but almost certainly to the serum or 'carrier' that allergic reactions occur. For many shots there are alternative preparations, i.e. chicken culture vs. horse culture vs. rat culture, and so forth. Switch if you can to preparations that you did not use before last year. (3) If you did not have skin scrapings done to check for mange mites and/or pinworm eggs before, do so at this time.

And of course, do whatever seems to work on a topical basis -- besides baby oil/mineral oil, sometimes a bath with fungicidal soap will help, with the one caution to be sure to rinse all the soap out very thoroughly. I've seen cases where the horse's tail and rear end itched simply because he got a soap bath much too frequently and/or where the soap wasn't thoroughly washed off. -- Dr. Deb

Evermore
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 Posted: Mon Apr 16th, 2012 03:14 pm
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I read in a human health article that a lack of adequate B vitamins, specifically B1 (if I remember right) can cause itching and skin problems like severe dermatitis. Could there be any correlation between a vitamin deficiency and severe itching? 

 

 

Last edited on Mon Apr 16th, 2012 04:00 pm by Evermore

ozgaitedhorses
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 Posted: Fri Apr 20th, 2012 01:55 am
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Hi Evermore!
My personal experiences with B vitamins and sweet itch:
I read about a vit B supplement trial for sweet itch horses in the UK, and thought I'd give B vitamins a shot for my sweet itch mare. The supplement used in the trial is not available in Australia, so I used a B vitamin supplement marketed here for horses and dogs. Last summer I fed this supplement once a day and sprayed the mare twice a day with a 'natural' bug repellent. She was definitely less itchy and less desperate than in previous years, despite a rather wet and 'midget rich' summer.

I changed my general mineral supplement over winter, with visible improvements in all horses. This summer I didn't use the B vitamins on my sweet itch mare and only sprayed her once a day with the same bug spray as last summer - and she still looked better and was less itchy than the year before!

Therefore my conclusion: B vitamins did improved the situation, but getting her minerals right made even more of an impact! (The general supplement does contain B1, B2 and folate, but in lower doses than the B supplement I used last summer.)

Also, dermatitis is not necessarily an allergic reaction, while sweet itch is an allergy to Culicoides bites. Two different kettle of fish that may or may not have the same ingredients. Having said that, regular courses of 'high dose' B vitamins helps me to keep my tendency towards contact dermatitis in check....

Cheers,
Manu

SuziQ
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 Posted: Thu Jun 21st, 2012 11:01 am
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Thanks to all for the replies re my horse's itching.

Tests came back positive for pinworm and negative for any bacterial or fungal infections. No other horses were affected from worm counts. We treated her with the piperazine phosphate and it all cleared up nicely.

However, she has just become reinfected again so we are going through the same process.

I have a couple of questions:
- The vet has concluded that the pinworms must be in the pasture for her to become reinfected. She has suggested 2 ways of dealing with this: either to plough and then re-seed the field, or to graze the field with sheep to break the lifecycle. Has anyone any experience with this as to which is most effective?
- Is there a reason why this one horse is the only one affected? Her fieldmate wasn't carrying the worms when tested and certainly shows no symptoms. My vet wasn't sure on this but is going to research it herself so I thought I would also.

Finally is there anyway for me to improve my worming regime? I normally worm every 13 weeks, on a rotational program and the pasture is mucked out daily.
Following the last pinworm infection I also disinfected all the surfaces the horse was in contact with.

If anyone has any experience in dealing with this or could point me in the direction of anyone I could talk to that would be greatly appreciated. I have hit a brick wall as all the reseaarch I have found says treat with ivermectin but as Dr Deb previously has said this is ineffective I am assuming that this is all out of date!

Thanks
Suzi

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Jun 22nd, 2012 09:24 am
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Suzi -- Click on the following link; this will take you to Equus Magazine and its affiliated magazines' recent articles on the subject. Read the top one on 'modern deworming strategies' to begin with, then any others that seem to fit:

http://www.equisearch.com/horses_care/health/deworming/

The key to chemical control of pinworms, just as it is of other internal parasites, is to rotate your deworming chemicals so as not to induce resistance in the organisms you are trying to kill. Your vet will, of course, know all about this and should help you develop a list of products containing different substances -- either that or just turn all the deworming over to your vet and she will rotate them from one visit to the next.

There are multiple possible reasons why one horse might be more susceptible than another to infection/chronic infection by a particular parasite. That horse's load of that parasite might have been higher since birth, for one thing -- which would go back to how 'loaded' its dam was and the farm from which it came. Another factor is innate or idiopathic resistance; some horses have stronger immune systems, and this relates to their general health as well as to the diet. You might ask your vet about immune-system boosters for this particular animal, which might include herbals as well as vitamins or mineral supplements tailored-to-suit your particular soil type, feeding regimen, and the workload for this particular horse. Among this, you'll also need to consider stressors on this horse, i.e. is it getting picked on by herdmates, does it have to compete for hay, is it herdbound or a fence-walker and so forth. Once stressors are identified, you should work to eliminate them as this in itself will strengthen the immune system.

Another factor is turnout; it is a fact that a horse's immune system works much less efficiently if the animal is stall-confined rather than having at least some room to roam. It is exercise per se that is the important factor here -- movement for movement's sake. So if the animal is getting a good romp or two per day with pasture-mates, or alternatively being ridden daily or almost daily, it will help. -- Dr. Deb

SuziQ
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 Posted: Sat Jun 23rd, 2012 08:52 am
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Thanks, Dr Deb. That's really helpful. I will do as suggested.


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