A Guide to the Different Types of Horse Allergies

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If you suffer from any kind of allergies, then you’ll know how annoying they can be. Well it’s not just us who can suffer from them, our horses can too – and of course it’s much more difficult for them to tell us when something’s wrong!

Here at Country & Stable, we’ve produced a beginner’s guide to the different types of allergies in horses, with symptoms to look out for and treatment and prevention tips. We’ve looked at the five main types of horse allergies:

  • Airborne allergies
  • Contact allergies
  • Food allergies
  • Insect bite allergies
  • Medication & vaccine allergies

Different types of horse allergies, symptoms and treatment

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Airborne allergens

What are airborne allergens?
Anything airborne that can irritate your horse, such as dust or pollen.

Signs of airborne allergies in horses

  • Can cause skin or respiratory problems, but rarely both at the same time
  • Skin reactions – itching, redness, soreness
  • Respiratory reactions – irregular breathing, coughing, wheezing, nasal drainage
  • Eye problems
  • Lethargy

Prevention & treatment of airborne allergies in horses

  • A vet can perform a skin test to identify cause
  • Vaccines or medication may help
  • Fly masks & sheets can help
  • Reduce turnout time during high pollen days
  • Ensure feed is fresh and free from dust and mold

Contact allergies

What are contact allergies?
Anything causing an allergic reaction when it comes into contact with your horse’s skin, from saddle pads to cleaning products.

Signs of contact allergies in horses

  • Signs typical of atopic dematitis
  • Hair loss
  • Lesions

Prevention & treatment of contact allergies

  • Test different products to determine cause
  • Replace offending product
  • Hypoallergenic products may help

Food allergies

What are food allergies?
Allergies to the food they eat. Horses can be allergic to natural foods as well processed foods that may contain extra additives and preservatives.

Signs of food allergies in horses

  • Hives
  • Colic
  • Hair loss
  • Itchy, inflamed skin
  • If allergic to a certain plant, symptoms can range from vomiting to paralysis or even death.

Prevention & treatment of food allergies in horses

  • Cut any offending items from diet immediately
  • Check fields for potentially harmful plants
  • Improve gut health to minimise effects

Insect bite allergies

What are insect bite allergies?
One of the most common causes of equine allergies. Caused by a hypersensitivity to the saliva produced by insects when they bite. A common example is sweet itch.

Signs of insect bite allergies in horses

  • Itching
  • Bald spots
  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Often found at base of the tail, eyes, mouth and root of the mane

Treatment & prevention of insect bite allergies in horses

  • Fly masks & fly sheets
  • Fly spray
  • Turning your horse out at times when insects are less active
  • Putting mesh screens in stables
  • Ointments & antihistamines can help reduce itching, swelling & soreness

Medication & vaccine allergies

What are they?
Allergies caused by medication or vaccines – fortunately, these are usually quite rare.
Signs of medication allergies in horses
  • Symptoms can vary depending on dosage, type of medication, how it’s administered, etc.
  • Can cause a range of problems, from swelling and redness to anaphylactic shock and convulsions
Prevention & treatment of medication allergies in horses
  • Never administer medication without a vet’s advice
  • Ensure you know horse’s full medical history
  • Monitor horse closely following administering of drugs
  • Call vet immediately if you notice an adverse reaction