Unlimited access >

Bath to relieve sweet itch using readily available products

I’ve been battling what I believe to be sweet itch with my gelding. I’ve ordered a variety of shampoos, sprays, and creams, some of which work better than others. I’m also working with the vet and have thus far tried daily zyrtec and dex but have not seen significant improvement with either. It is not an option to stall the horse at night at my boarding barn. I also believe it would be too hot for him to wear a fly sheet (100+ F).

I’m not convinced my current shampoo is relieving the itch enough and I don’t want to shell out on another big bottle of equine shampoo that may or may not work. Im also in a hurry to provide him a little relief before i leave town in a few days. What are your tried and true homemade rinses or shampoos with ingredients I can find at the grocery store/pharmacy? My sweet, suffering boy and I thank you!!

Head and Shoulders has been helping mine this year, particularly with the mane sores.


After washing, on dry skin, cortisone cream helps. The people-kind is fine. Of course it needs to keep being applied as it wears off, just like with people.

I’ve had two geldings that suffered from sweet itch during summer. I found that the washing needed to be very thorough ALL THE WAY UP between their hind legs. Scrub with a gentle cloth, rinse thoroughly. Also do all of the area under the tail, and the underside of the tail.

There is always someone standing around to worry about “drying out up there”. Horses will lift their tail to dry the anus area, later. Horses can spread their hind legs all the way up, and let the air flow up there, and they will, later. They seem too modest to do this while people are watching, though. :wink: (Maybe instinctively cautious.)

But once they were used to the thorough wash process, and how much better they felt, mine would always shuffle and open up to let me take care of it thoroughly (by feel as there is no real visibility). Sometimes they wouldn’t open their hind legs if other humans were watching, but I could push ahead anyway, for their comfort.

I found that it helped to antibiotic-wash the grooming utensils, sponges etc. after use. Keeping them clean so as not to inadvertently re-apply the crud I was removing.

Sweet itch is terrible for the misery it can give them. Like flies and mosquitos, it shouldn’t exist in a just world for horses.


I had a mare who had these issues for years. I finally found that generic vaporub from Walmart was really useful. I smeared it on her midline and up the front of her neck. It repelled any bugs and kept he comfortable. Ymmv.


I heard a new remedy that folks say works:

In addition to the normal: tube of desitin (physical block), tube of cortizone (soothes itchiness), Vick’s VapoRub or Camphphenic (scent barrier) – add tube of Ivermectin and oneTBS of EquiSpot (you know, the “Frontline for horses”).

I haven’t tried it myself, but it seems like it might work.


A fine product for the purpose. Personally I can’t stand the smell and use Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, which has been tremendously helpful.

I like your mix!

1 Like

Pyranha shampoo. Work it in well to mane, along backbone, and to head of tail. Use a comb while wet and with shampoo on to work it in. I am convinced that there is a parasitic component to sweet itch. Possibly related to neck threadworms. Look it up. Shampoo and follow up with MTG. Keep after it. Mine had scabs on his neck under mane that kept popping up. But eventually, with a shampoo every three days or so, he has quit rubbing his mane, neck, and tail. He also wears a fly sheet. He’s a fat chunk and I’d rather treat the disease not the symptom with dex, etc. He has a fan in his stall and can come in his back door if he wants.

I have also used concoctions with ivermectin in them on his mane. I am not sure what worked, the pyranha shampoo, the ivermectin, or both. I’ve been trying to help him all summer, and I’m winning. He does not itch any more.

Call me crazy, but whenever he gets one of those scabby areas on his mane, they are accompanied by tiny black specks. Lots of them. I can see them, he is very white. I shampoo, comb with a fine tooth comb, and rinse them out.



For years my horse has had what I think is sweet itch on his tail. I had moderate success with a few different things and this year I’m having great success with hand sanitizer spray that I bought from a local distillery. Can’t explain why something so simple is working, but it is. Might not work for long due to anti-microbial resistance, but it’s the answer for me for now.

1 Like


this worked well for mine.

1 Like

I know you’re looking for homemade, but this stuff works so well to stop insect itching. I actually use it on myself when I get mosquitoe bites.

1 Like

Sweet itch is caused by cullicoides midges. if that’s what you’re dealing with, your horse is allergic to the midge’s saliva, which makes them itchy, so they rub, and that makes them even itchier. So to address the problem we need to:

a) stop the midges attacking the horse
b) stop the horse feeling itchy to allow the itchy spots to heal

Stop the midges:

  1. Spray: lemon eucalyptus spray is as effective as DEET in repelling cullicoides midges.
  2. Physical barrier: fly sheets with a fine mesh that cover the neck and belly are a must
  3. Cullicoides midges are weak at flying: a fan will help blow them away in the stall

Stop the itch:

  1. Cetirizine at a rate of 0.2-0.4 mg/kg bw administered at 12 h intervals will stop the itching. The pills are flavorless and easy to mix with a little grain, or even make dehydrated (not baked) cookies out of.
  2. Equishield IBH has chlorhexidine, hydrocortisone, and citronella to kill germs and bacteria and oatmeal and lanolin for itch.

I would do ALL of the above for a couple weeks and see. It’s worked amazingly for me.


I don’t have any home remedies, and this thread is interesting and giving me some ideas for sure.

I have found some success with Equiderma neem shampoo AND their conditioner. I used to just do a weekly bath in the shampoo, and that was certainly beneficial, but I found that when I also used the conditioner, he seemed to stay comfortable for more days than if I just bathed him. The conditioner really makes his coat soft and I wonder if the lingering neem (I mean, I rinse it off, but you know) helps deter the midges.

I also have put the Equiderma wound ointment (also contains neem) down his midline and on either side of his sheath. It really seems to help keep the crusties and bumps away.

I’ve been negligent with my Equiderma baths and ointment lately, and the itchies and bumps have returned.

I know that’s now what you asked for, and you’ve probably tried Equiderma since it’s a popular one for this type of thing, but I thought I’d share anyway.

Thank you, I do believe that is what we are dealing with. I see bug bites on his rump and up by his mane. The strange thing is that I’ve had him 4 years and he’s never been itchy to this extreme. I’ve never known him to get sweet itch.

I can try some of these ideas but he does live out 24/7 and current temps are over 100 so it seems too hot for a fly sheet.

Thank you. I have heard good things about the equiderma products.

Just following up on the comment on neck threadworms. I posted earlier this year about a 4 year old draft horse I have. He was destroying everything and himself due to itching. Daily Zyrtec was keeping him from blind destruction but nothing more. I got it ‘controlled’ in the sense that secondary infections were at bay thanks to some advice from this forum. However, he was raw skin from his chest to his sheath, raw tail and raw neck.
A friend of mine commented that his cattle were having a time with threadworms this year…and that made me search out research, including a very long thread on this forum, about neck threadworms.
I’ve always wormed very conservatively and according to fecal counts. (closed herd). I ended up following the protocol for neck threadworms, with a little overkill!, and the itching, swelling, etc. has stopped. In this case, I went with a double dose of ivermectin every ten days for three weeks/cycles. He is still super sensitive to flies. But I have stopped the Zyrtec for a week now, and he is no longer itching, and the massive hard swelling along his belly has vanished.
So, if nothing else works? Consider a reaction to threadworms.

That’s so interesting you say that because it was my thought too. Because of that long, old thread and my horses issues - intense itching - whole body - neck, tail and a couple wierd knot like sore things as I recall, I did the double dose a couple times and those wierd round sores went away. And the itching too. And when the itching came back I’d deworm them again and voila gone.

So just a week ago I see small black flies and skin bothered under my mare and started applying thick Desitin and it WORKED to stop all the issues BUT now there’s a wierd hard area and has me thinking again could it be threadworms?

I know. Really flying blind on them. However, in this case, the classic’ symptoms were presented. I didn’t do a biopsy, because I have an understanding vet and I had just had him out for two other emergency calls.
These symptoms matched: https://ker.com/equinews/equine-neck-threadworms-signs-treatment/ Especially, the forehead lesion.
I really upped the Zyrtec before the first Ivermectin dose, because the die off of the worms can cause insane levels of itching.

Thanks for that read. What is interesting is I’ve never ever had a vet mention them.

Almost forgot – OTC antihistamine helps. Just what’s on the shelf at Walgreens, check the dosage to weight.

Reporting in that I double dosed Ivermectin on 9/1 an all rubbing has stopped. My two were rubbing their necks especially so hard lines were left on their bodies. Also rubbing hind ends and my mare very itchy on her underside and she was having small black flies bothering her on her midline. I was keeping that covered in Swat.

All itching/rubbing has stopped. I double dosed again on the 14th just to follow protocol.