Culicoides in Horses

The Culicoides midge is a tiny gnat, also known as no-see-ums because of their size. Their bite causes “sweet itch”, an allergic skin reaction.

The itch occurs when these tiny gnats bite a horse who is sensitive to the gnats’ saliva. The itch is so intense that the horse will rub the area, developing sores which can then become infected. Any infection requires veterinary care.

Sensitivity to the bite of the gnats is more common in senior horses and horses who are immune-compromised. There are several ways to combat the effects of these bugs.

Put fine mesh screens over windows and around open stall areas to help prevent gnats from flying into the barn.

Place fans strategically near stalls. The gnats are poor flyers and the airflow will help keep them away.

Keep your horse in the barn at dawn and early evening when the gnats are out in great numbers.

If your horse is outdoors and you suspect sensitivity to the gnat bites, cover with a fly sheet (lightweight in hot weather), fly mask, fly bands.

Spray a safe fly repellent for use on horses on exposed areas of the horse’s body, avoiding the face.

Use a natural insecticide spray mist system in the barn.

Keep your horse away from any water source such as lakes, ponds and so on. Clear standing water in the area where your horse grazes.

Check on drinking water to make sure it’s clean and fresh.

Finally, contact the specialists dealing in bug control for more safe ways to deal with ridding your area of insects that are a danger to your horse.

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