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This section is aimed at giving you guidance and clarifying some common beliefs about various forms of dermatitis in particular. This is not veterinary advice. All guidance is provided for information purposes only.

Equine itching

2 main groups

Allergies are commonly known as ‘summer dermatitis’ as they appear in spring and summer. Scratching during the summer is not necessarily ‘summer’ dermatitis, however. Although the symptoms of different forms of dermatitis are similar, the care and treatment required is very different. Small reminder of things to bear in mind:

This is quite a common affliction. Itching is caused by the movement of parasites, which dig into and damage the skin. The seriousness of the symptoms is proportional to the number of parasites present.







Genitals, belly

Legs (by horse biting)



 Summary definitionSummer dermatitis is caused purely by hypersensitivity to insect stings.

 Areas affected : Whole body

 Season : Spring/Summer/Early autumn (when biting insects are active)

Symptoms : Intense scratching in good weather, hair loss, broken mane, sores from scratching

Short-term care : Insect repellents and lotions / soothing creams / covers if no other solution found

 Please note As the skin is already irritated, it is strongly recommended that you use non-aggressive products






 Summary definition: Hypersensitivity to environmental allergies (mites, pollen) linked to a weakness in the skin barrier and increased immune sensitivity

 Areas affected: Mainly the head, tail, mane, forehead, abdomen, sheath/teats and legs.

 Season: Depends on the type and number of allergens involved. Spring/summer: pollen. May be accompanied by hypersensitivity to insect bites.Winter/all year round: storage mites contained in hay, stored food, bedding, etc.

Symptoms: Similar to those caused by summer dermatitis (sweet itch). Intense itching, hair loss, broken mane, wounds from scratching

Short-term care: Soothing and deep-hydrating cream. Large wounds carry a significant risk of secondary infection. Wounds should be monitored and disinfected if required..

Please note: Although the symptoms and treatment are similar to those for summer dermatitis, covers may not necessarily help if insect bites are not the main cause, particularly as covers will often just get torn.


 Summary definition: Hypersensitivity to dietary allergens, mainly those contained in cereals, alfalfa and additives (preservatives, flavour enhancers, etc.)

 Areas affected: Head, ears, forehead, mane, tail, back, abdomen and legs

 Season: Closely linked to feeds and treats

Symptoms: Hives, itching, hair loss

Short-term care: Soothing lotions/creams. 
1- Identify the food stuff that is causing the problem and eliminate it from the horse’s diet: Remove each different food group in turn and in full (as even a small quantity can trigger the allergy), including from treats (sweets, apples, carrots, etc.)
2- Stop using the culpable food stuff completely

Please note: Again, the symptoms and treatment are very similar to those for summer dermatitis. Covering the horse is completely useless and should not be used.


 Summary definition: Localised allergic reaction linked to the use of the harness, products applied to the skin, etc.

 Areas affected: Areas that come into contact with the allergen

Symptoms: Hives, itching, hair loss

Short-term care: Soothing lotions/creams.Clean/replace the material or change the cleaning method used (e.g. the soap). Stop using the culpable product completely.

Please note: Again, the symptoms and treatment are very similar to those for summer dermatitis. Covering the horse is completely useless and should not be used


 Summary definition: Reaction on the skin with itching and lesions caused by touching or ingesting plants, medicines or chemicals combined with sun exposure

 Areas affected: Usually the head and depigmented areas (pink skin around nostrils and socks, etc.)

  Season: Mainly spring/summer as levels of sunshine increase and photosensitising plants grow, but can occur all year round.

Symptoms: Itching, irritation, wounds, ulcerations.

 Short-term care: Soothing and healing lotion/cream + change in diet or grazing area.


Itching and skin problems are not necessarily caused by allergies, however.Take a look at the list of main types of equine parasitosis to find out more about the other causes of dermatitis.