What are Skin Allergies?
Allergies are becoming increasingly popular in any animal species. Your horse can be allergic to multiple substances or foods with no apparent cause. An allergic reaction in your horse is his body thinking it is protecting itself from something harmful when, in reality, it is actually harmless. Allergies can develop early or late in life; there is no timeframe. There is no cure or treatment that can fix allergies, but you can manage them with the help of your veterinarian. Diagnosis and treatment can keep your horse comfortable by reducing the reaction and symptoms.
Skin allergies in horses can be caused by contact with an irritating substance or ingestion of a food that causes a reaction in the skin. The resulting itching and hives can be very irritating to both your horse and you as the owner. If you suspect your horse is suffering from allergies, consult with your veterinarian.
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Symptoms of Skin Allergies in Horses
Symptoms of skin allergies in your horse may include:
- Itchy skin
- Hair loss
- Self-trauma of skin
- Severe skin damage
- Secondary skin infection
- Respiratory distress
Your horse can suffer from contact allergies, respiratory-related allergies, and allergies to things he ingests. In regards to contact allergies, once he comes into contact with the item, his skin may become itchy and red. This can lead to self harm as a result of him scratching. Respiratory allergies can lead to hives but also causes respiratory related issues. These issues may start out small but could then develop into something more severe, such as pneumonia. If your horse is allergic to something he eats, this can also lead to itching, excessive rubbing, hair loss or breakage, and related symptoms. Your horse can also be allergic to certain bugs and when they bite, your horse could break out in hives, develop a fever, swelling, or more.
Causes of Skin Allergies in Horses
The body system is a complex structure. Allergic reactions happen when the body is exposed to something not harmful but the body perceives it as harmful and dangerous. The allergic reaction is the body’s way of trying to protect itself. The body cannot be tricked back into thinking the item is not dangerous so you will need to avoid giving the allergen to your horse or having it around him.
Diagnosis of Skin Allergies in Horses
Your veterinarian will begin by performing a physical exam on your horse. She will want to note his symptoms as well as behavioral changes that you have seen. There are many conditions that can cause a vague symptom like itching; she will want to rule out other possible causes of his symptoms. If she suspects another culprit, such as an infestation, she may take a skin scraping sample to check for external parasites. She will scrape off a thin layer of your horse’s skin in a small area in the affected region. She will then look at it under the microscope for microscopic creatures that may be the cause.
Diagnosis may also require help and documentation on your part. First, the veterinarian will collect a thorough verbal history from you to see when the symptoms began, if there were any changes within the environment or food at the time, and for how long and severely it has been affecting your horse. If a food allergy is suspected, she may recommend you give your horse a specific diet in order to rule out possible causes. If she suspected an allergy to a bug bite, she will look for the place of puncture and examine the region for clues. The diagnosis process of allergies is more of a rule out process than an exact, immediate determination of cause.
Treatment of Skin Allergies in Horses
Medication may need to be utilized in order to control your horse’s allergies. Antihistamines, corticosteroids, and diet supplementation are the most commonly used medicines. If these are unhelpful, you can also consider getting allergy injections for your horse. Testing will be done to determine what exactly your horse is allergic to in order for his injections to be created specifically to his needs.
Eliminating the cause of the allergy from your horse’s environment will also help. For example, if he is allergic to his bedding, replace it with something else. If he is allergic to a bug, put up bug lights and fly paper in order to try to eliminate them before they reach your horse. If it turns out he is allergic to one of his feeds, simply remove it from his diet.
Maintenance of weeds and grasses within his paddock that may be causing a contact allergy will be necessary. Regular mowing or complete removal may be required.
Recovery of Skin Allergies in Horses
If you can determine the cause of your horse’s allergy and remove it from his life, prognosis of recovery is good. If you are unable to determine the cause, you will likely have to treat his allergy symptoms as they appear.
The main thing an owner needs to know and keep in mind is that allergies can be treated and managed, but not cured. The best form of treatment you can offer your horse is prevention of exposure to the suspected allergens.
Skin Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My horse has hives. We live in SW Florida. In the past had an intense episode of an allergic reaction. Cause unknown. I do not want to put her on steroids. Any non medicine treatments?
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