What are summer sores?
Summer sores, also known as fly sores, are a seasonal skin condition in horses that may be referred to by Veterinarians as Cutaneous Habronemiasis
. Summer sores can occur anytime of the year, but during warm months they tend to become more prevalent. This is mainly because biting insects such as flies, mosquitoes and noseeums are at their peak during the summer months.
These sores are caused by the larvae of the Habronema worm, which lives in the horses' stomach. Worm larvae are passed through horses' manure where flies land and eat the larvae. The larvae mature inside of the fly, and about two weeks later, the larvae crawl out of the fly's mouth - specifically when the fly lands somewhere warm and moist to feed.
The sensitive skin around horses' eyes, lips, ears and genitals are at a much higher risk of developing summer sores. If the larvae have moisture, they can survive and cause local inflammation and intense itching. Horses will chew, bite, or scratch at the infected area to help alleviate the pain. This often causes unsightly bleeding.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
- Open lesions that attract flies
- Lesions that look greasy
- Blood-tinged fluid draining from lesions
- Lesions that have yellow or white calcified material, resembling grains of rice
- Lesions that enlarge and spread slowly
- Hard nodules or red or brown tissue that is raised
The most accurate diagnosis
requires a deep tissue biopsy of the lesion for conformation of the larvae. Summer sores will rarely heal own their own, so treatment usually includes larvicidal, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial components. Ivermectin, a common de-wormer (can be found at most local feeds stores and online at Tractors Supply
), has been used to kill both the adult worms in the stomach and the larval forms in the skin tissue. Corticosteroids reduce the inflammation and antimicrobials treat secondary infections (which are usually the result of self-inflictions like biting, rubbing, and itching).
Prevention is a priority when it comes to summer sores. Basic preventative measures include regular deworming (quarterly), fly control (we recommend an all-natural alternative fly spray: Ricochet
), and basic wound care. Use fly control measures such as fly spray, fly predators, fans, and manure removal to keep flies to a minimum. Be sure to take prompt care of any skin wounds that may attract larvae-carrying flies. Lastly, don't forget to use Ivermectin at least once in your horse's annual parasite control program.
For more alternative methods to fly control, Benefab® by Sore No-More® offers a fantastic, all-natural coat-conditioning fly spray. Ricochet horse spray
has a citrus sent, made with no harsh chemicals so it will not irritate your horses' lungs. Also, the herbal formula conditions while protecting the coat and skin from the effects of the sun, as well as pesky insects.