If you have a horse, you may notice that sometimes, he might develop a strange rash or swelling that disappears as quickly as it appeared. You might notice coughing or sneezing or other symptoms.
If your horse is diagnosed with allergies, you may worry about the medication option– you might want to try more natural solutions to control symptoms. After all, steroids can be pricey, and may also come with other long-term side effects.
Thankfully, there are many natural options you can try to help treat your horse’s discomfort. Some of the most common include treating with calendula, chamomile, fenugreek, garlic, horseradish, marshmallow root, nettle, and spirulina. These herbs are usually pretty easy to find and inexpensive as well.
Is My Horse Allergic?
Horses, like all other animals, can suffer from allergies. Allergies can be caused by all sorts of things, from bug bites to general irritation from the environment, or even food. New shampoos could cause your four-legged friend to break out in hives, or certain pollens may lead to respiratory symptoms. However, to treat an allergy, you need to understand it first.
What is an Allergy?
Allergies happen when your horse is exposed to something that it is hypersensitive to. When exposed to that particular allergy, the body reacts as if there were a legitimate threat. When living creatures get injured, their bodies immediately trigger an immune response to try to prevent infection and allow the area to heal.
The immune system will attack foreign bodies, such as bacteria and viruses, to help protect the body while also healing the area. However, when something is allergic to a substance, just being exposed to it can cause the body to immediately go into overdrive, usually leading to discomfort and other symptoms. Even things that are normally not dangerous to the body may trigger allergies
Common Horse Allergy Triggers
Horses have five typical allergy triggers that are likely to give them trouble.
|Insects: Insect bites are the most common, and typically, it is due to hypersensitivity to saliva. All sorts of biting insects, from midges to flies, mosquitoes, and fleas, can cause allergic reactions. They are usually paired up with visible signs on the skin near the bites.|
|Airborne Pollutants: Airborne pollutants include mould, pollen, dust, and just about anything else in the air that can be breathed in. They usually either trigger reactions in the skin or breathing, along with behavioral symptoms.|
|Contact Allergies: Anything that comes into contact with your horse’s skin could potentially trigger contact reactions that become atopic dermatitis. This is sometimes apparent after recently changing soaps, or if you have a new saddle pad or wrap that you are using.|
|Food Allergies: Food allergies can sometimes happen. Though uncommon, some horses may grow sensitive to their natural foods, or to any sorts of additives found in their supplements or feeds that are provided to them.|
|Medication: Though rare, there are also situations in which allergic reactions to drugs or vaccines are given. This can lead to swelling localized to the injection or hives. Very rarely, a horse may go into full-body shock, known as anaphylaxis.|
Symptoms of Horse Allergies
Allergies can be dangerous for our pets, which is why it is so important to recognize the symptoms that your horse may be suffering in the first place. Knowing what to look for can help you to identify the problem sooner so you can begin to treat it sooner as well.
|Hives: Hives are soft patches of swelling that usually start small, but may create massive welts across the horse’s hides. They are most commonly found on the sides, shoulders, chest, and necks of horses. They will dent inward if you put mild pressure onto them with your fingers. These are the most common, telltale signs of an allergy, and thankfully, they are usually not very itchy.|
|Pruritis (Itchiness): Pruritis is a fancy term for the itchiness of the skin. This is particularly common if your horse gets a “sweet itch,” or summer eczema. The result is that your horse will begin to itch itself more and more, which can cause further problems. Scratching can quickly damage the skin, and continued scratching may also prevent healing and leave your horse exposed to potential infections.|
|Respiratory Symptoms: Sometimes, there are respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing or coughing. Typically, in an allergic reaction that causes respiratory symptoms, breathing passages are narrowed by swelling. They may also cause your horse to shake their head.|
|Anaphylaxis: Finally, anaphylaxis, as mentioned, is an extreme allergic reaction. This usually happens after repeated exposure, which is why it is so important for you to figure out what your horse is allergic to prevent exposure. When this happens, your horse will usually quickly show symptoms such as struggling to breathe, and usually, there is a rapid drop in blood pressure. It must be treated quickly with epinephrine and corticosteroids, or it may be fatal.|
What Are Some Practical Things I Can Do to Help?
If you’re worried that allergies will force you to put your horse down, don’t worry about it! In most cases, there are several ways that you can actively help to mitigate symptoms of allergies and help your horse to live a long and comfortable life.
|Identify the Allergen: The best thing you can do is identify the allergen. If this is a new reaction, have you added anything new into your horse’s life as of recently? That could be the culprit! If you’re unsure what it could be, you can also keep logs of what your horse is exposed to and when along with any symptoms you have noticed so you can start narrowing down options to treat your horse.|
|Eliminate the Allergen (If Possible): If you know what the allergen is, eliminating it is recommended if possible. If you know your horse is allergic to a specific feed or supplement, or if you know that your horse breaks out in a rash every time you use a certain shampoo, cut them out. Your horse will thank you for it.|
|Minimize Exposure to Allergen: If you can’t eliminate the allergen, you can still take steps to reduce exposures. If your horse is allergic to midges, for example, setting up a fan in your stable can help to protect your horse from them, as they cannot fly well. Or, you can put on fly blankets or use fly repellants if those are the problems. Do what you can to make the overall risk lower to make your horse more comfortable.|
|Make Your Horse Comfortable with Herbal Solutions: As we are about to discuss, you can also help treat your horse’s symptoms with all sorts of herbal solutions that may help dramatically improve comfort.|
Herbal Solutions for Helping with Horse Allergies
As we are about to discuss, you can also help treat your horse’s symptoms with all sorts of herbal solutions that may help dramatically improve comfort.
|Calendula: Calendula works to improve tissue healing that may have been irritated or damaged by itchiness when used as a cream or infused in oil on itchy skin. You may also feed it to your horse to try helping from the inside out.|
|Chamomile: Chamomile works well as an anti-inflammatory while also alleviating pain and relaxing the nervous and digestive systems. Providing it can help to relax your horse and ease suffering or discomfort.|
|Fenugreek: Fenugreek, in liquid form, can be made by distilling dried ripe seeds. It is typically recognized as both antifungal and anti-inflammatory, allowing it to alleviate respiratory allergies.|
|Garlic: Garlic is incredibly beneficial. It is antimicrobial while also showing signs of being anti-inflammatory and working as an expectorant. With additional antioxidants as well, it is perfect for treating issues with joints and respiratory allergies. Use with caution, however, as too much may cause anemia.|
|Horseradish: Horseradish, both the roots and leaves, can be used as an expectorant that will help to clear the nose while also reducing inflammation in the nasal membranes that is common in respiratory allergies.|
|Marshmallow Root: Marshmallow root works as an expectorant and a tonic. It will aid in clearing the airways while soothing any irritation as well. It may also help to alleviate urinary and gut issues as well.|
When to See a Vet
Generally speaking, any time you are concerned about your horse, you should seek veterinary advice. However, if you notice that your horse is not doing particularly well, is suffering from respiratory symptoms, or you suspect anaphylaxis, you should always call immediately.
Rashes that do not go away or look angry or infected should also be inspected by a vet, especially if they don’t respond to at-home treatment.
Seeing your horse uncomfortable or in pain is never fun. However, if you take action, you can help to alleviate that pain and discomfort.
And, by seeking to do so the natural way with herbs, you may be able to prevent overexposure to medications that may be needed in the future, or that may have long-lasting effects on your horse’s health