First Walk is on Us!

✓ GPS tracked walks
✓ Activity reports
✓ On-demand walkers
Book FREE Walk

Jump to Section

What is Clipper Oil Allergy?

There are many variables that can affect your horse’s skin: his food, his environment, parasites, and even things you apply on him.  When you groom your horse with clippers you have to use a clipper oil to keep the clippers cool, lubricated, and running properly.  What many horse owners do not realize is that their horse can actually be allergic to the oil they are using.  

If your horse is allergic to the oil, he may develop skin lesions, papules, be very itchy and even experience hair loss.  It could be one ingredient within the oil or a combination of them that he is allergic to.  To come to a proper diagnosis, you may need to go on a rule out basis but once it is determined, you can remove it from your horse’s life and therefore prevent any more reactions.

Horses with a clipper oil allergy typically develop lesions on the skin and sometimes a secondary skin infection.  If your horse has developed a type of skin reaction, contact your veterinarian for an evaluation.

Book First Walk Free!

Symptoms of Clipper Oil Allergy in Horses

Symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Pruritus 
  • Papules
  • Lesions
  • Crusted pustules
  • Scaling
  • Alopecia
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Excoriation
  • Lichenification 
  • Secondary skin infection 

Types

A contact allergy is typically a delayed type of sensitivity, but not always.  This means it usually requires weeks to months of repeated exposure to the allergen for the sensitization to develop.  Once there is sensitivity, clinical symptoms typically appear 24 to 48 hours after exposure.

Causes of Clipper Oil Allergy in Horses

A clipper oil allergy in your horse can be considered a type of contact allergy.  When the oil makes contact with your horse’s skin, his immune system sees it as a threat and causes symptoms of an allergic reaction to begin.  Contact allergies can develop against any number of chemicals; your horse may not be allergic to the oil as a whole but a specific ingredient within it. 

Diagnosis of Clipper Oil Allergy in Horses

When diagnosing clipper oil allergy in your horse, it will be based primarily on clinical signs.  Your veterinarian will begin by performing a full physical exam on your horse.  She will make note of all his symptoms and where they are primarily affecting him on his body.  She will also want to collect a verbal history from you.  She will want to know all details as to what your horse has ingested and has had contact with recently.  

Once you think you have correctly selected the allergen, in this case clipper oil, for a true diagnosis you will need to retest it.  First, you will need to clear up the original reaction by removing the suspected allergen from your horse’s routine.  You will also need to treat the skin reaction by washing the skin thoroughly to remove any remaining allergen.  If there is no secondary skin infection, the lesions should clear up in 7 to 10 days once treatment begins.  Once the lesions have healed, you will now need to rechallenge the suspected allergen source; this means you will need to use the clipper oil again.  If it is the oil, you can expect the lesions to reappear and/or worsen within 24 to 48 hours.  

Another way to diagnose a type of contact allergy is by using a patch test.  For this type of diagnosis, you use a shaved area on the lateral aspect of the neck and apply suspected allergens to different patches.  This way if you are unsure of the allergen causing substance, you can test multiple substances at once.

As a safety precaution, your veterinarian may want to take a skin scraping sample from your horse for skin cytology.  These tests can rule out skin issues that may be affecting your horse.  For example, she will need to rule out parasitic infections, fungal skin infections, or other likely skin ailments.

Treatment of Clipper Oil Allergy in Horses

Avoidance of the allergen is ideal.  However, if for some reason it cannot be avoided, your veterinarian may consider administering glucocorticoids.  It may take some time, but if you are able to narrow down the ingredient of the clipper oil to which your horse is allergic to, it would be much better for your horse.  Then you can shop for oil that does not contain the ingredient and therefore can be safely used on your horse.  

The skin will need to be treated depending on the lesions and symptoms your horse has developed.  If there is a secondary infection, your horse will need antibiotics.  Your veterinarian may also recommend a topical medication that may come in the form of a liquid, ointment, or spray for you to apply directly to the lesions themselves.  Your veterinarian may need to prescribe addition medications or therapies depending on the severity of your horse’s condition.

Recovery of Clipper Oil Allergy in Horses

The severity of the allergy will determine the recovery process.  The more severe the allergy is, the longer it will take your horse to recover.  You must also consider the range of skin where your horse has developed lesions.  If the area is small, it may be quicker to resolve and look better versus a large region.  Also, if there is a secondary skin infection present, the recovery process will take longer and need more aggressive treatment.  As long as you address the condition of the skin, his prognosis of recovery is good.