Summer eczema in horses

Summer eczema in horses is a seasonal, annually recurring itch that goes hand in hand with dermatitis (inflammation of the skin). This inflammation of the skin is caused by an allergy to the saliva of certain biting midges (Culicoides).

Common skin allergy

Summer eczema is one of the most common skin allergies in horses. Many horses can suffer a lot from this condition.


  • The most common and most important symptom is itchiness.
  • The itchiness makes the horses restless and makes them scratch constantly on several spots.
  • The allergy affects the mane, base of the tail, head and ears.
  • Because of the scratching the horses can injure themselves, which could lead to secondary bacterial infections.

The symptoms mostly occur in the warmer months of the year, namely in summer and early autumn. In the beginning these symptoms are mild, but they gradually worsen. Moreover, the period in which they occur gets longer every year.

All horse breeds in general are sensitive to allergies, including summer eczema, but still, the Icelandic horse is one of the most affected breeds.

How to treat?

There is no appropriate remedy to this day. Still, there are some treatment methods available:


In general, the kind of feed and the feeding method should not have any effect on the presence of summer eczema. However, obesity and a lack of minerals and trace elements could threaten the skin's health.


You can treat summer eczema by avoiding contact with the Culicoides midges, by moving your horse indoors or by using eczema blankets. You can also use anti-mosquito products. Or specific care products like Cavalor Sw-itch (preventative) or Cavalor FlyLess (healing).

In some cases, you could use antihistamines or cortisone. Sometimes alternative treatments with herbs, acupuncture or homoeopathy can bring relief.

Source: Michèle CLARYSSE / literatuurstudie in het kader van de masterproef/ academiejaar 2008-2009

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