ORIGINALLY POSTED ON 11/16/11
The BOETT Sweet Itch Blanket… every heard of it? Me neither, but if your horse is suffering from small, unseen bugs, Read On!
Well, it is exactly the wrong season to be talking about midges and sweet itch since Summer just finished. But, I just learned about the Boett Blanket and I figured, ‘better late than never’.
Besides, there may be a few of you who are still churning from the midge attacks recently… This may be your answer!
SEVERE SWEET ITCH
I had never heard of the Boett Blanket for severe sweet itch.
In fact, I never really contemplated severe sweet itch because none of my horses have severe sweet itch.
I mean, BG has ‘not-so severe’ sweet itch that I protect with Equi-Spa’s THE BALM. That works fine for her. But… as I read all about severe sweet itch and those dreaded midge flies, I pondered BG’s affliction a bit more.
I think she might have a more severe case than I’ve noticed. I think she rubs her ears and a part of her mane because of those dastardly evening midges instead of the other excuses I had applied to her symptoms.
Hmmmmm. And it all started via an email I received from a reader.
AN EXCERPT FROM THE EMAIL
(My horse) was on antibiotics 4 times a day for over 3 months. His vet and I believe that this damaged his immune system and that is what led him to such extreme bug bite sensitivity (sweet itch). His first summer he was itchy. His second summer was worse. By the summer of 2010 he was miserable. He would spend hours and hours finding ways to itch himself, especially his belly and face. We tried everything. Heavy duty probiotics, digestive enzymes and antioxidants, every topical spray and cream I could find, fly sheets and masks (not very helpful and too hot)….. benedryl was not a help and the vet and I both agreed that cortisone would be a very last resort. By the end of last summer he was a mess. He had rubbed off his mane, forelock, and most of his tail. He had developed a hard patch of scar tissue on his belly and his face was rubbed raw. Please understand that he was under treatment, we weren’t just sitting back and letting him suffer, we just weren’t having much success. Clearly something had to change. Someone told my vet about the Boett blanket which was invented in Sweden for horses with severe sweet itch. The Boett is NOT a fly sheet. It is a different type of material and is designed to be able to be worn 24/7. We decided to give it a try. The US dealer I found online was Estelle’s Safety Reflective Wear . There are directions for proper measuring and then she asks some questions about breed, etc. to be sure you are ordering the correct size. Chancellor was a bit unsure of this contraption at first but he very quickly learned it was helping him. We got to the point where if we had to take it off him for some reason he would quickly wind himself up into almost a panic. His blanket is off for the season now and what a difference from last year! He has a beautiful, soft coat. The scar tissue on his belly is gone. He has a LONG and beautiful head of hair. The only minor issue I had was what to do with his mane under the blanket/ face mask. I did braid it but still ended up with a huge mat. But the best thing of course is seeing how relaxed and content he was this summer. And I have to say he never came close to overheating in the blanket, even when we had a couple days over 100 degrees which is unheard of here.
THE SYMPTOMS OF SWEET ITCH
The Sweet-itch.co.uk site was very robust. I don’t know if there is more attention to sweet-itch in the UK or what… but there are more articles about it in the UK and most of the blankets are sold in the UK…
In any event, here is what the site says about sweet itch symptoms:
Sweet Itch, or Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD), is a problem that affects thousands of horses, ponies and donkeys in many countries of the world to a greater or lesser degree. Virtually all breeds and types of ponies and breeds can be affected, from tiny Shetland ponies to heavyweight draught horses, although the condition is rare in English Thoroughbreds. In South Australia reports say that as many as 60% of horses and ponies are affected. About 5% of the UK horse population are thought to suffer. Although known by different names (e.g. Sommer Ekzem in Germany, Kasen in Japan, Queensland Itch in Australia), the symptoms are the same.
Symptoms include severe pruritus [itching], hair loss, skin thickening and flaky dandruff. Exudative dermatitis [weeping sores, sometimes with a yellow crust of dried serum] may occur. Without attention sores can suffer secondary infection.
The top of the tail and the mane are most commonly affected. The neck, withers, hips, ears and forehead, and in more severe cases, the mid-line of the belly, the saddle area, the sides of the head, the sheath or udder and the legs may also suffer.
The animal may swish its tail vigorously, roll frequently and attempt to scratch on anything within reach. It may pace endlessly and seek excessive mutual grooming from field companions. When kept behind electric fencing with nothing on which to rub, sufferers may scratch out their mane with their hind feet and bite vigorously at their own tail, flanks and heels. They may drag themselves along the ground to scratch their belly or sit like a dog and propel themselves round to scratch the top of their tail on the ground.
There can be a marked change in temperament – lethargy with frequent yawning and general lack of ‘sparkle’ may occur, or the horse may become agitated, impatient and, when ridden, lack concentration. When flying insects are around he may become agitated, with repeated head shaking.
Diagnosis is not usually difficult – the symptoms and its seasonal nature (spring, summer and autumn) are strong indicators. However symptoms can persist well into the winter months, with severely affected cases barely having cleared up before the onslaught starts again the following spring.
Horses that go on to develop Sweet Itch usually show signs of the disease between the ages of one and five and it is common for the symptoms to appear first in the autumn.
There is anecdotal evidence that stress (e.g moving to a new home, sickness, or severe injury) can be a factor when mature animals develop Sweet Itch.
Hereditary predisposition may be a factor in Sweet Itch and work to identify the gene(s) responsible is at an early stage. However environmental factors play a major part – where the horse is born and where it lives as an adult are at least as significant as the bloodlines of its sire and dam.
Sweet Itch is not contagious, although if conditions are particularly favourable to a high Culicoides midge population, more than one horse in the field may show symptoms.
In the UK Sweet Itch is classed by Vets as a reportable condition, which must be disclosed by an owner to a prospective purchaser before the sale. For the purpose of a vetting the allergy may be regarded as seriously as an unsoundness.
SO I WENT HUNTING ON THE INTERNET TO FIND SWEET-ITCH BLANKETS IN THE USA…
Most of the midge defying blankets are made and sold in Europe. There are a few here and the main one is Boett. You can purchase it in two places. The first was listed above and it is Estelle’s Reflective Wear linked here.
The other is BoettUSA linked here.
From what everyone says, the Blanket:
–does not interfere with a horse’s normal activity
–can be worn 24/7
–the horses quickly learn to love their new friend the blanket…
–it moves and breathes
–is easily washed
–can be worn in 100 degree weather
Wow! Sounds great!
THE TECHNOLOGY BEHIND IT
I found this on the Sweet-itch.co.uk website:
PEOPLE LOVE THEM –
From what I’ve read, these blankets are the absolute panacea for the horrible cycle of itch! I mean, angels sing, according to owners with suffering horses.
The blankets are around $245 (which includes the belly wrap) and the additional hood is around $90.
For me, I think I will get the hood for sure for BG. I think she would so relish not having to worry about midges in her ears and nose. The Boett Hood is on my list!
Let me know if you try it!! And remember that there is a solution for next season!
WHERE TO PURCHASE?
I don’t really think there is any competition in the US. Or at least I couldn’t find any.
But, in the UK, there are other brands which have probably migrated over her somewhere on Ebay or Craigslist or somewhere.
Here is the competition (Thank you, Natural Horse Resource…):
The DeMeulenkamp rug features strong elastic and three girth straps to prevent sagging around the belly. The blanket is sent in a bag that can be cut up and used as spare material, but the supplier will also send out extra material and mask material for a small charge on request to help you deal with wear and tear. Size information can be found here. The picture above shows a DeMeulenkamp rug and a Boett hood.
The Pagony has been designed with less hardwearing material, so it’s cheaper than the Boett or DeMeulenkamp. It is ideal for less severe Sweet Itch sufferers and works really well as a back up or spare while the ‘main’ blanket is being repaired or washed. It is highly recommended to have more than one blanket as they only work through prevention. Once the horse starts itching, they will scratch with the blanket on – thus threatening the coverage of the blanket through tearing or ripping. Mud and dirt encourage flies so you may wish to wash the stinky rug from time to time, which is when a spare rug will come in very handy!
The Snuggy Hoods range of rugs and hoods are designed to be worn 24/7 and the various sizes available can be viewed here. Also in the range are leg covers that offer greater coverage for your horse against midges. Snuggy Hoods offers an impressive after sales service including alterations, repairs and advice for the life of the product, which might mean that perhaps you could ditch that sewing machine after all!
For an basic overview on the causes and treatment of Sweet Itch, please visit part one of this series on Sweet Itch on the Natural Horse Resource.