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Update to Forum Rules: Criminal Allegations

In our continuing effort to provide an avenue for individuals to voice their opinions and experiences, we have recently reviewed and updated our forum policies. Generally, we have allowed users to share their positive or negative experiences with or opinions of companies, products, trainers, etc. within the industry, and that is not changing.

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We are now expanding our policies to allow posters to share their own first-hand experiences involving overt criminal allegations, such as animal abuse or neglect, theft, etc., but only if they publicly provide their full first and last name along with the post. We still will not allow anonymous postings alleging criminal activity.

So, a user may now make a specific claim against a named individual or company, but it must be a FIRST-HAND account, and they have to IDENTIFY THEMSELVES. Users have always been legally responsible for their posts, and nothing has changed there, but we want to loosen the reins a bit and further allow the free flow of discussion and information relevant to the horse community.

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Forum rules and no-advertising policy

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(Revised 5/9/18)
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What is the best way to treat hives?

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  • What is the best way to treat hives?

    My horse has some hives or perhaps welts caused by ants or yellow jackets.
    It could also be some kind of allergic reaction.

    I think he may have rolled in an ant bed or there may be a yellow jacket nest in his pasture.

    I don't think it's an allergy as they aren't all over and he doesn't show any other signs
    breathes and eats normally.

    They are mostly on his sides and around the girth with a few on his right haunch.

    Most of them are small. A large welt on his neck

    He has some around his withers that he does react to so I won't ride until I am sure he won't be in pain.

    Can I give him Benadryl and if so what should be the dosage and how often?

    If not , is there something else?

    I may bathe him with something to help reduce the swelling.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    "They'll be no butter in hell."

  • #2
    I've never tried to treat a case of hives with OTC meds, but that doesn't mean that someone else hasn't successfully done it.

    All the cases I've dealt with involved having the vet out.

    Calling the Vet is what I'd recommend to any horse owner do when facing a case of hives with no experience in treating it.

    In almost every case I've seen, the vet gave the horse an injection of dexamethasone.

    In one case a horse was having an anaphylaxis shock reaction to what was believed to be a bee sting, the vet gave the horse a shot of Epinephrine in that incident.

    My standard approach to sudden onset of "mystery hives" has always begin by bathing the horse with cool water and a mild shampoo that I know the horse is not allergic to.

    One of my steps for giving a "hives bath" (for a horse that I know is not allergic to betadine), was to begin with a bucket of water with some betadine added to make a weak betadine solution. I was taught that by a vet many years ago. Because supposedly, in some hive cases, there can be something fungal or mold that the horse got into, and the idea is to neutralize it with the betadine.

    So I start with a cool betadine rinse, let it soak in for a minute, then shampoo and rinse the horse as usual. Washing the horse may also accomplish washing off any other thing the horse may have got on it that could be causing the reaction.

    Another aspect of a cool water bath is it can be soothing. Because hives is a form of inflammation, and the cool water may help reduce the inflammation.

    I think it's wise to get the horse's TPR when hives first present to assure that the reaction is not more severe than just the "wheals" (what hive bumps are called). If the horse is sweating, has rapid or labored breathing, fast or slow pulse, low grade fever, anxiety, thrashing about... Call the Vet!

    If ever the "wheals" begin to expand into patches, or begin to open up and ooze yellow goo, I "extra" highly recommend getting a vet's help ASAP.

    For info sake, the medical term for hives is called "urticaria", and google searching "horse urticaria" can give you a lot of information.

    One of the risks in not treating hives with a steroid like "DEX", is that in some cases the hive bumps will progress to opening up like blisters and begin to ooze yellow "serum". Oozing hives may lead to secondary bacterial infections that may then need to be dealt with with medication, in addition to treating the hives. Hence why I like the betadine rinse, as I feel it may help prevent that.

    That's my hive experience in a nutshell.

    Best of luck.


    • #3
      I've used banamine for hives. Don't like dex here, had a horse founder on it badly. Cold hose helps. One of my mares just came in with hives. Never had them before and no idea what she got into.


      • #4
        I have a mare who is very sensitive to bug bites. she looks like she has hives unless she stays in a fly sheet in summer. I was just getting hers out today because yesterday she started showing the bumps.

        I don't medicate her at this point. I do give her spirulina and use Solitude on all the horses to try to keep bugs to the minimum. It doesn't work on the mosquitoes which I think are the worst culprits.


        • #5
          Cold hose and benedryl is a good starting point. See if that works for her. If not, there are other options that your vet can supply. It is always wise to not ignore allergies, they can lead to lamenitis.


          • #6
            My horse had symptoms of respiratory allergies, but also had one isolated patch of hives on his neck. We couldn't figure out what was causing the hives, but my vet suggested generic Zyrtec. We dosed him with 15 tablets per day (shoved them all into an oatmeal cream pie, and he ate it right up ). He's a big boy at 16.2hh, 1300lbs, so it was a pretty big dose. 1 tab per 100lbs of bodyweight is a pretty good guide for dosing that way. It solved the hives almost immediately and the respiratory symptoms within about 2 weeks.


            • #7
              From your description, it sounds like your assessment of having rolled in ants and/or being stung by a yellow jacket is on track. I have had a lot of success washing the affected areas in warm water with baking soda added.


              • Original Poster

                Thanks for your replies.
                I gave him a bath yesterday. The large ones are reducing in size.
                They have not spread. Still eating and breathing normally.
                I have some bath powder I used for myself when I got hives so I will try that on him tomorrow.
                I may try to search the pasture very carefully so see if there are yellow jackets out there.
                It could have been wasps also. The very warm weather has given us a bumper crop of those red-orange bomber wasps that are very aggressive. They like to sit on the fence posts and buzz you when you walk by.
                We also have a bumper crop of fire ant beds in the pasture.

                "They'll be no butter in hell."


                • #9
                  i don't know if this is helpful, but my mare gets hives if she gets all of her vaccines at once or when bitten by spiders. When this first happened, my vet (who is an owner/practitioner in a sport horse Ocala vet practice in the winter) gave dex when we thought it was a spider bite, but later just let it run its course and separated vaccines (which worked). Long story short, her hives looked unsightly, but were not uncomfortable enough to treat with systemic corticosteroids, and went down within a few days.

                  It could be that one yellow jacket, or a spider, or a wasp got to your horse. Fire ants generally cause issues at the pasterns and fetlocks, maybe in addition to hives.
                  Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


                  • #10
                    When my small pony had bad hives last year, the vet said they now prefer Zyrtec (or its generic) to Benadryl. Dosage was 10 pills. She did not want to go with any steroids due to the laminitis risk, especially with a small pony.


                    • #11
                      My 10 year old mare had an issue with welts. Our vet suggested Benadryl. Our mare weighs aprx 1200-1300 pounds. The dosage was 15 tablets, crushed, and mixed with her food. She began clearing up the next day. By day two she was completely clear. Check with your vet for advice for your horse. I am also going to sponge my mare with vinegar & water (1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water) but I'm going to wait another day to make sure her skin is not still sensitive.


                      • Original Poster

                        Checked on him this morning and the previous welts cleared up but he had new ones.
                        He is out with two other horses who also had a couple of welts but nothing like my horse.

                        I did walk the pasture and there are quite a few ant beds. No sign of yellow jackets but that doesn't mean they aren't there.

                        Gonna move him and his buds to a different pasture for a few days to see if it makes a difference.

                        I will also get some Zrytec and see if that helps.

                        "They'll be no butter in hell."


                        • Original Poster

                          Treated him with Zyrtec and it has lowered the swelling a lot.
                          Also moved the horses to a different pasture and that is helping too.
                          No new bites that I can see.
                          "They'll be no butter in hell."