Flying insects are particularly problematic this year.

A vet has issued a timely reminder that flies can threaten equine health, as well as being irritating.

This year in particular - as a wet Spring turns to what’s predicted to be a warm summer – more horse owners will be reaching for gels and sprays to repel flies. 

Dr Andy Richardson says flies may be implicated in several health-related conditions in horses. 

“Flies and other insects can be a real nuisance for horses. However, they are also implicated in several health-related conditions,” says Dr Andy Richardson, NAF veterinary and innovation director.

Sweet itch and sarcoids

Andy points to sweet-itch – a hypersensitivity reaction triggered by midge bites - as being “particularly problematic.”

Flies may also play a role in spreading equine sarcoids, he adds, although the link is less well understood than that between midges and sweet-itch.

“Research has shown that flies can carry the bovine papilloma virus,” Andy explains. “As this virus is known for causing sarcoids, researchers have suggested that flies may be able to spread sarcoids between susceptible horses.

Pollen alert

A proliferation of pollen this season has also caught this vet’s attention.

The mild winter followed by a warm but wet Spring has made for ideal growing conditions for plants, posing another concern for some horse owners, says Andy. 

“This has led to high pollen levels in many areas of the country. 

“Some horses can suffer from unwanted effects of pollen inhalation, in particular allergic airway disease - leading to coughing, increased respiratory effort and nasal discharge. 

“Pollen may also exacerbate head-shaking symptoms in some horses.”