Horse | Veterinary Bulletin: Allergies in the Horse

By Dr. Leo Eldridge, DVM, Manager, Purina Veterinary Services Laboratory

As in humans and other animals, horses are subject to allergies. Springtime can be a peak season for such problems, so it's good to be aware of some of the causes and prevention practices.

Two primary allergic reactions to watch for are:

  • bumps or hive-type swellings in the skin
  • difficulty in breathing

If these symptoms occur, the attending veterinarian can determine if they are actually caused by an allergy or some other problem.

Some of the sources of allergic reactions can be insect bites, mold, dust, pollen or occasionally some type of feed ingredient. For example, it is possible for a horse to be allergic to bran, which might be used as an ingredient in a manufactured feed.

The obvious question when symptoms are observed is, what should be done? Answer: Call the attending veterinarian. The practitioner is qualified to make thorough evaluation and recommend treatment. A blood test or skin scratch test may be conducted to identify the cause.

Some treatment consists of:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication such as cortisone-type drugs
  • Antihistamine medication

The veterinarian will decide on the best course of treatment.

Prevention of allergic reactions can often be handled by avoiding the cause. Protecting the horse from insects, and avoiding moldy hay or a dusty environment are some of the easier things to be done. If it is determined by the veterinarian that the horse is sensitive to certain feed stuffs, a diet that is free of those ingredients or substances may become necessary.