I have been in horses a long time and have seen a LOT of skin problems in horses labeled "allergies," "sweet itch," "summer sores," and what have you, and have seen each of these conditions diagnosed all over the board with remedy prescriptions to match from steroids to salves.
It has only been in the last couple of years that I have become aware of NTWs, NeckThread Worms, also known by their taxonomical name, Onchocerca Microfilariae, a little talked about parasite which has been around and mostly phooo phoooed since Moby Dick's great great grandparents were minnows.
sThe eye opener for me was seeing just how effective a simple worming procedure was in making a remarkable difference in these "allergies," "sweet itch," "summer sores," and many other recurring "skin disorders."
A post appeared in my Facebook Group Marv Walker Horses about a mare that was a mass of itching sores to the point she was actually seeking out places to scratch herself. The sores were pretty much all over her body and she was incredibly distracted and difficult to handle. Naturally, the group member was desperately seeking a solution to the problem as the vet's prescriptions and diagnosis, as well as those of the other horse owners she knew, weren't working.
The group chewed over the problem trying to figure out what the possibilities were and what to do about them. One by one were discarded possibilities for various reasons such as no known change to set off an allergy attack, other horse exhibiting closely resembling skin conditions to a much, much, much lesser degree than the mare, and so on.
Someone suggested NeckThreadworms, not real sure who because Facebook's archiving and searching features aren't the world's best, and a four week interval of double doses of Ivermectin.
The owner, at wit's end and willing to try anything, gave the mare two tubes of Ivermectin and soon noticed a marked difference in the mare's condition. In a couple weeks the mare was back to normal.
I noticed several horses at the barn I was at that had suspicious looking spots on their face, neck, shoulders and hips. They were explained away as allergies. A couple had rubbed sores on their necks and hindquarters close to their docks. Naturally, I thought, "Hmmmm..."
I was not a helter skelter wormer. I wasn't crazy about "anecdotal worming," I knew what could happen to a horse that had a massive parasite die off and I wasn't all that interested in overloading a horse with wormer without a very good valid reason. I also knew some wormers were more "dangerous" to use than others. Years ago I'd read how different wormers have different lethal doses and I decided I'd see if I could find some info about them.
So I went looking and one of the pages I found was A cheat sheet on horse wormers.
Since we had been using Ivermectin and noticed you had to give a LOT of Ivermectin to an adult horse to kill it and the box said it was effective against Neck Threadworms, Onchocerca Microfilariae, I grabbed a handful of tubes and a couple of the horses and dosed them up.
Their skin "lesions" started clearing up within a couple days while the other horses' condition continued. I double dosed the other victims and got the same results.
Now, wouldn't you anecdotally be convinced NTWs were the cause?? Yeah, I know! Me too!
For the last few years I have run to the wormer box at the first sign of a skin condition on a horse and I don't recall one time the dosing did not pretty much stop the sweet itch, summer sores or allergies in their tracks. I'm not saying sweet itch, summer sores, and allergies do not occur but I certainly doubt they occur anywhere near as often as they are "diagnosed."
Surprisingly, very few people are aware of the most likely cause of their horse's skin problems.
And yes, I'm still seeing people dismiss the obvious, even many veterinarians.
The Disturbing Truth About Neck Threadworms And You Itchy Horse.
Fighting The Big Fight Against Neck Threadworms..
A Chronicle Of The Horse Forum Thread On NTWs.
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