Exploring Equine Seasonal Allergies | TheHorse.com

The primary treatment for allergies is avoidance of the offending allergen, but it can be difficult to detect specific allergens.

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As winter gives way to spring and summer, trees become greener and flowers bloom colorful and bright. Some people find themselves sneezing or coughing, develop congested nasal passages, and fight through watery eyes as a result of the abundant pollen or other environmental allergens. And like their human counterparts, horses can suffer from allergies too.


“Allergies are extremely common in horses,” said Katherine Williamson, DVM, a veterinarian with Purina Animal Nutrition. “It’s largely linked to management and their environment,”


Williamson discussed allergy testing and diagnosis at the 2017 Annual Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference, held April 6 in Hunt Valley, Maryland.


Types of Allergies


Allergies have several potential causes and are categorized into one or more of four general classifications:


  • Insect hypersensitivity;

  • Contact allergies;

  • Inherited atopy (respiratory, dermatologic); and

  • Food allergies (although definitive documentation of food allergies in horses is uncommon).


Allergy Testing


Just about every horse gets itchy when flies and mosquitoes attack, despite our best efforts to reduce bites. Having a horse with pruritis (skin itching) and skin lesions might indicate allergies, but keep it mind it could also have a parasitic or fungal cause. For this reason, “it’s important to know exactly what you are dealing with,” Williamson said,


The primary treatment for allergies is avoidance of the offending allergen, but it can be difficult to detect specific allergens. Williamson gave some tips for narrowing the search for the problem’s cause (or causes):


  • Look for patterns of lesions on the body (what contacts the affected area?);

  • Consider if anything has changed (environment, bedding, topicals, feed, etc.);…

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