AAEP Convention Preview: Sunrise Sessions and Table Topics

The Sunrise Sessions (and lunchtime Table Topics) offer AAEP convention attendees a roundtable type of discussion format where they can choose their particular interests from a long list of popular topics. They can ask questions of session moderators experienced in that field, along with sharing their experiences with other interested veterinarians. Topics include everything from mare hormone therapy to race and sport horse lameness, and from scintigraphy to computer informatics. Following is a preview of one Sunrise Session topic, "The Pruritic (Itchy) Horse."

We're all familiar with the frustration of trying to keep an itchy horse from scratching off his hair and hide (and of course, the problem seems worse just before a show or sale). Susan White, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, professor at the University of Georgia, will host a Sunrise Session on Nov. 26 on "The Pruritic (Itchy) Horse" for those interested in prevention and treatment.

"Pruritus, or itch sensation, is normal in horses and people on occasion," says White. "However, pathologic scratching that can cause secondary skin damage can result from skin disease or from other systemic illnesses. Skin disease can be caused by external parasites, bacteria, fungus, viruses, irritation from chemicals, or by more rare conditions such as immune-mediated and photoactivated (light-activated) dermatoses."

Many things can worsen a horse's itching problem, including dirty skin with several layers of dried sweat; hot, humid conditions; solar radiation; overused and poorly rinsed soaps; and skin allergies. "A significant proportion of horses with insect bite hypersensitivity are also allergic to pyrethrins and pyrethroids, so topical insect repellents (which contain these chemicals) make the pruritus worse!" says White.

The most important part of treating a horse with pathologic pruritus is diagnosing the cause so that correct treatment can begin. "If multiple animals are affected, then think of a contagious problem such as dermatophilosis, dermatophytosis, or parasites," White says. "If it's only a single animal, then the problem is more likely a hypersensitivity.

"Use all management techniques to decrease scratching--not just one," White suggests. "If insect bites are the problem, then all methods of insect avoidance should be used. Topical application of repellents is not enough. Keep the horse inside or in shade during peak insect hours and use fans to make wind currents to keep insects from landing."

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