There are different types of allergies found in horses to include both skin allergies and respiratory allergies.
Skin Allergies in Horses
Skin Allergies can result from topical contact and from oral ingestion. Dust, mold, pollen, bedding, and insect bites are just a few of the sources that can cause skin allergies. One of the most common causes of itching starts with the bite of insects called Culicoides, also known as midges or no-see-ums.
About the Culicodes Midge
- Midges are most active in the summer months, but can wreak havoc on your horse between the months of April – September
- Midges breed and prefer wet/muddy areas and compost type heaps so keeping your horse away from these type of areas is a must.
- Midges are most active around dawn & dusk, keeping a horse prone to sweet itch stabled during these hours may help to protect the horse.
- Midges tend to feed on the abdomen, a horse displays an allergic response to the midge saliva by aggressively rubbing his tail, hindquarters, neck and mane due to intense itching. Those areas become raw, crusty, and inflamed, with substantial hair loss.
- Some breeds of horses tend to be especially allergic to midges, such as Arabians, Icelandics and Morgans.
What can you do to protect your horse?
- Boost your horses immune system with Equine Challenge Probiotics or Probiotic Blast.
- Add Equine Challenge Flaxseed to your horse’s diet. Research suggests that adding flaxseed to your horse’s diet can quiet the allergic response.
- Keep Fly Sheets on your horse to include the attached neck, belly and tail guard.
- Fly spray twice daily, especially along the neck, topline, belly and tail areas.
- Keep away from wet, muddy areas, etc…
- Keep horses stabled during peak hours if possible (using fans in the stable is a great way to deter the midge).
- Avoid Sweet Feeds – That includes, feed, treats and Spring Grasses.
- Apply natural remedies to the skin. Lavender and coconut oils will soothe the skin.
- Bathe the horse in a vinegar solution, don’t rinse off – this will balance the PH of the skin.
- Feed Equine Challenge Bug Banish (apple cider vinegar and garlic) to make the horse less appealing to the midge.
- Neem Oil – A natural insecticide, can be added to fly spray and/or essential oil rub.
Hives are bumps on the skin, usually resulting from direct contact with the allergen such as bedding, fly sprays, shampoos, etc… Hives can develop suddenly and disappear just as suddenly. They can remain after the allergen is removed from the environment. There are times you may need to treat with a corticosteroid (anti-inflammatory medications). Hives aren’t usually itchy and tend to be soft swellings.
They can vary in size and can be caused by inhaled allergens. Hives are referred to as atopic dermatitis.
Sometimes a feed can cause a reaction resulting in hives. When this happens you should eliminate all food and supplements and start by feeding only grass hay. After a week or so with no signs of new hive swellings, add in one more food item and wait a week or so before adding another. This may help you find the culprit .
Respiratory Allergies in Horses
Horses with a respiratory allergy often have a dry cough and/or wheezing that worsens when eating or exercising. There may also be intermittent nasal discharge.
A common cause of respiratory allergies in horses effect horses spending most of their time inside barns with poor ventilation. Horses that are exercised in indoor arenas may also be more prone. Manure, ammonia vapor from urine-soaked bedding, mold spores from hay, or hay dust can all contribute to respiratory irritation.
If you have a horse that must spend most of its time indoors, turn him out as much as possible. Horses with respiratory allergies may also benefit from soaking hay before feeding.
If you have a horse in need of respiratory relief, please look into Equestrine Respiratory Relief (located under Repiratory on our website). Equestrine is used to treat horses suffering from respiratory diseases such as: Heaves, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Recurrent Airway Obstruction in Horses (RAO). Equestrine supports healthy respiratory and immune system function.