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Occasional Hives: Horse Developing Allergies?

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  • Occasional Hives: Horse Developing Allergies?

    My horse is an 11 year old OTTB who I’ve had since he was 6. He’s been at several barns over the years, however a few years back at one barn he developed hives maybe 3 or so times that would cover most of his body (although they would still be considered of the “mild” type). After consulting a vet we chalked it up to possibly being something in the field, so when the hives would appear we would just cold hose the affected areas. Since then, I’ve been more cautious of watching what products I use on him and such as well.

    At the barn he went to next, I think I remember him developing some patches of hives occasionally, but again, I could never pinpoint what was triggering them. Now, at yet another barn, I’ve noticed again that he’ll sometimes develop patches of hives. For example, the farrier was out on Friday; I brought him in from the pasture to clean up his hooves--I had some time to spare so I gave him a quick grooming so I could pop his turnout sheet on as the temperatures had plummeted. As I was brushing him it seemed as though patches of hives had developed (eg. I was brushing one side of him, and when I went to the other I see hives developing). I did not use any products whatsoever on him that day. Last year a few times when I’d be grooming him and tacking up for a ride I’d see hives develop like this. On some of those occasions I used some fly spray or a detangler of some type on him but on others, I don’t think I applied anything. (Even though I’d used all of those products on him many times with no incident, I’ve tried several different types of products too, in case one could’ve been the source of the problems). He’s been boarded at this barn before (when I first got him) and I don’t remember him ever getting hives then.

    I’m going to buy some new brushes in case there’s some product residue that’s contributing to the problem and I plan to talk to the vet when he’s out in April for the spring workup. I wonder if I should try to be more proactive about finding out the cause, but nothing seems consistent at all and he’ll sometimes go long periods of time with no problems at all. The hives have always been mild but should I be more worried? Is it worth trying some type of supplement? TIA.
    Originally posted by RugBug
    Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.

  • #2
    I have one in the barn that has also developed mystery hives lately. No one else, just this mare. At first we thought she might have gotten into some stinging nettle, but I checked pastures and couldn't find any. They don't seem to bother her. Some days they are worse than others. vet was just out and said it's bacterial. So she's ons SMZ's, betadine baths and bleach bath (2 ounces bleach to a gallon of water) every 3rd day.


    • #3
      I have had my DWB gelding for 7 years now. He developed hives 2 years ago. First time was in the summer and we chalked it up to insect bites. It was very mild and he was given a shot of dex and all was good. In Oct. of that year he had another mild episode and dex took care of that too. Last summer he broke out a few times and the dex only lasted about 5 days. My vet gave him a stronger steroid shot and he was covered with a fly sheet and vet supplied fly spray when out. Hives came back in November and we did an allergy test and found out he was highly allergic to Alfalfa! he was also mildly allergic to soy and insect bites. I put him on Omega Horseshine, he eats 1st cut Timothy and Pennfield Phase 5. So far so good, his coat was amazing this winter and no sign of hives. We will see what happens with the bugs My vet explain that it is not what we put on them as much as what they ingest. She also said it is common for them to develop allergies late in life


      • Original Poster

        Thanks for posting about your horses--good luck with them, too!

        Jacqui- Would your horse only randomly get hives like my horse does? As one would think that my horse would get hives more often if it was a fixed thing (eg. feed that he gets 2x daily) he was allergic to.

        Although, in a way I suppose it does make sense that something one ingests may cause more of a reaction / may be more common than getting a reaction from something they're around...

        My horse has been on different types of feeds / hays, too, so I'll have to think if there are any connections (although, the hives he got all over his body could have been from something else. Hmmm...). At the barn he was at last though, he was on an all grass hay and grain and now he's on a ration balancer, alfalfa pellets, and a mixed hay.
        Originally posted by RugBug
        Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.


        • #5
          I would definitely start by taking away any alfalfa... vet says she has seen a big jump in allergies to it. It takes a few days to get out of their system. I think that as they become more susceptible to allergens you'll see more hives. We have had a hive free winter, I'll have to see what happens in the summer when the biting bugs arrive Flax is supposed to really help with reducing allergic reactions. I swear by the Omega Horseshine and also have him on 1 cup of Canola oil as well.
          Let me know if it helps!


          • Original Poster

            My problem is that I board my horse and the barn's hay is a grass / alfalfa mix. My horse could receive other hay--if I provide it...but I'd rather not do that unless tests show that he is in fact allergic (it's just another thing to have to worry about and I don't know if they'd give me a break on boarding if I did provide hay as I already provide feed and and still pay the full cost of boarding). Swapping the alfalfa pellets out for beet pulp wouldn't be an issue (as long as my picky horse would eat it).

            I've heard that allergy testing in horses is pretty hit-and-miss though? And is it pricey? Also, could simply reducing my horse's alfalfa intake be of any help (if it is the cause of the hives)?

            I'll have to look into those supplements--thanks again, Jacqui!
            Originally posted by RugBug
            Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.


            • #7
              My horse had occasional hives of unknown origin, mostly in the winter/spring. I did the blood allergy test which showed he was allergic to many types of grain/hay (not alfalfa, though). This helped me adjust his diet which seemed to resolve the issue. Typically the blood tests aren't as reliable as the skin tests (lots of false positives) but in my case it helped me eliminate potential allergens from his diet.