How to Tell If Your Horse Has Allergies

Allergies are common for humans to deal with, but did you know that horses can also get allergies that irritate them and make them sick? Horses commonly get hives and itchy, irritated skin from allergies that may appear suddenly and then die down quickly. Unfortunately, your horse may be miserable during this time, and repeated exposure to the allergen can make the situation worse.

Common Signs of Horse Allergies

Allergic reactions in horses can be anywhere from mild skin irritation to more serious issues like breathing problems. Once the horse is exposed to the allergen, the signs may appear quickly, within a few minutes, or hours later. If you fear your horse has allergies, watch closely for:

  • Respiratory Problems – Your horse may cough or wheeze as breathing passages swell up and close down due to exposure to an allergen. Horses may also toss or shake their heads during exercise when dealing with an allergy.
  • Anaphylaxis – Anaphylaxis occurs quickly and is likely to set in after your horse has become hypersensitive to something he or she is regularly exposed to. Blood pressure will suddenly drop and breathing becomes difficult. Without treatment, your horse may die after going into shock during anaphylaxis.
  • Hives – The most common allergic reaction in horses, hives typically start small but may grow larger over time, and are soft swellings that will press down when you put your finger on them. They may run together and form big welts across the sides, shoulders, chest and neck.
  • Pruritis – The general term for itchy skin, this resembles a sort of eczema in horses that is caused by tiny bites of insects. They may become dry, crusty and itchy, often leading to a secondary infection that must be treated.

Typically, mild allergic reactions don’t require treatment, but a veterinarian should be contacted any time you feel your horse has severe swelling or trouble breathing, or if your horse doesn’t improve within the first 24 hours after exposure.

Things To Consider When Looking For A Horse Property

When in the market for a horse farm or equestrian property, make sure you walk the property and inspect the types of plant life surrounding it. Some areas have higher concentrations of flora that horses can be allergic to. Further, take into account seasonal trends, like pollen and ragweed, which are at high points in deciduous climates during the spring and fall seasons. Knowing the environment you will be raising your horse in can help you become more aware if there is potential for any allergies to hinder their happiness.

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