Lumps and Bumps

Horses with Hives – What to Do?

Horses with Hives – what to do?

Last year I did a short talk for the lovely folk at Werribee Pony Club and one of the members, Taylor asked me about her horse who gets a rash each year around Autumn.  Taylor said that the Vet had come and given hydrocortisone injections and antihistamine medication which helped the horse but it still came back. The Vet suggested that the next step was allergy testing but at several thousand dollars, it’s not really viable.

Hives are categorised as an ‘urticarial’ (itchy) rash.  The lumps are soft and fluid filled and may cover parts of the body or be all over.  They may come up quickly in response to a reaction to a medication or insect bites or come and go like Taylor’s horse.

Picture sourced from www.equestrianandhorse.com

The reasons for the rash can be many and varied and it’s important to try and eliminate them one at a time.

If your horse comes up in such a rash it’s important to check that it is not causing facial swelling which may impede his breathing or cause his eyes to swell and make it difficult for him to see properly. If this happens to your horse call your Vet immediately.

If the rash is something like the one in the picture, however, Veterinary care may be required but is not as urgent.  It may go away of its own accord in a day or two.  As in Taylor’s case, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine medication may make the rash go away and not return.

Check your horse’s paddock for possible causes. Is there an ant nest near the feed or water area?  In summer one of our horse’s, Snoopy has a favourite place under the pine trees.  Unfortunately, it’s also a favourite place of the mosquitos and her head often looks like the picture above.  Whilst not true ‘hives’ it tends to look the same.

Are there plants that flower at the same time of year that the horse gets hives?  Try moving the horse to another paddock where there are none of these plants and see if that helps.  Is there a change of feed.  The idea is that you eliminate one potential item at a time to try and work out what it is.

This can be tricky though and you still may not be able to work out the culprit.

Get your Vet to do a full work up on your horse as the cause may also be hormonal.  Discuss the possible management courses.  You may have to live with the fact that sometimes you will need to give your horse some antihistamines or anti-inflammatory medication.  This can be a real problem if you are competing where your horse is likely to be swabbed.

It’s worth trying some herbal approaches as well.  The idea here is that some herbs will dampen the allergy response.

A review of herbalist articles suggests the following can be helpful.

Rosehips have a high level of Vitamin C which is a natural anti-inflammatory response.  15-20g/day for a full-size horse.

Garlic 15-30g granules each day can suppress the histamine response.

A handful of Chamomile flowers each day calms the allergic response.

Add Omega 3 fatty acids to your horse’s diet either through Chia or Flaxseeds or the addition of Omega 3 oils to the feed also helps reduce inflammation.

And finally, Spirulina, a blue-green algae (a good kind) is said to be a strong anti-allergen as well as have a range of other benefits.  Feed 20mg morning and night for a large horse.  (Sweeney, M, 2004)

There are a number of very reputable herbalists who work with horses and for specific cases, it is best to consult with one of them.  Try  Sue at Natural Equine & Canine Health http://www.naturalequinehealth.com.au/ or  Victoria Ferguson at www.thecountryherbalist.com.au

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