How do I help my horse that rubs his tail?
Tail rubbing is one of those grooming "things" that has multiple causes - so try and narrow it down before you start addressing the possible causes. Don't wait too long, the rubbing can get out of hand and cause painful and itchy sores on the tail, not to mention hair loss. The best solution for tail rubbing is figuring out the cause of the rubbing! Ask your Veterinarian for help if you can't figure it out.
Some of the causes of tail rubbing include:
- Insects, like gnats, which can cause irritation and "sweet itch". These critters cause a horrible allergic and itchy reaction, which causes your horse to do whatever it takes to scratch that itch, at the expense of hair and skin. A Veterinarian is definitely needed in this instance!
- Pin worms. These little buggers live largely in the lumen of the intestine, and the female worms migrates outside via the rectum to lay eggs under the tail. This creates an itchy reaction, and thus the scratching. They will not be detected on a fecal count. Learn more here!
- Shampoo residues that are drying to the skin. Properly and thoroughly rinsing products (shampoos and conditioners, etc.) can prevent this. Be wary of using detanglers near the tail bone, just in case they are drying.
- A sheath or udders that need to be cleaned. You may smell that *oh so pleasant* and distinct smell, or you may see some thick dark goop on the inside of your horse's gaskin area. OR, you have not cleaned the sheath in a while and you suspect it's time.
- Food or environmental allergies. Often, an allergy causes overall itchiness, and sometimes hives. If you have ruled out the other causes, it may be worth your while to talk to your Veterinarian about allergies.
- A tick bite. Many ticks leave a crazy itchy spot when they have feasted and dropped off. This is "good", as the itching clears on it's own, but bad because a tick feasted on your horse. For more on ticks you can read this stomach turning article here.
From a grooming standpoint, once the cause is figured out, you can proceed with the treatment! Hopefully it's as easy as using a Veterinarian suggested shampoo, dewormer, or other medical treatment. Sometimes, the rubbing is a one-time deal...and a good sheath or udder cleaning and/or thorough rinsing of the tail is done.
It's often super easy to just say splash some listerine on the tail and you are good - but that does nothing to alleviate most of the causes. The best places to start are the easy places - rinse the tail thoroughly to remove any grooming product residue (try white vinegar as a rinse) and then clean sheath or udders. If those don't do the trick, keep investigating.Sweet itch and other insect reactions persist until you eliminate the bugs and/or protect your horse. Food allergies need to be chased down also so that dietary changes can be made. Pinworms need to be diagnosed and treated. What works for your horse?