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  • September 06, 2021 5 min read 1 Comment

    Horse Allergies are no joke. Coming to a barn and seeing your horse covered in a rash is something nobody is expecting. Unfortunately, it happens. Some allergies are easier to manage. While there are some that can severely hurt your loving horse. To help them with these issues, you should always consult a veterinarian first and get as much information about it as you can. You will be more helpful to your horse if you know more about these allergies.

    First, we should say there are so many allergic conditions that your horse can get. From seasonal allergies, allergic reactions to specific products, environmental allergies, food allergies, etc. Each of these can affect each horse differently. What’s important is that you notice it quickly enough so your horse can get the treatment needed.

    So, let’s start by explaining the most common horse allergic reactions.



    These are probably the most common reactions when it comes to allergies. Under finger pressure, you will notice these soft swellings, which start small but might grow more prominent. The areas which are most affected are the neck, chest, shoulders, and sides. Luckily, hives, also known as urticaria, are not as itchy for horses as they are for us.

    Treatment: Many cases will resolve in one to three days; other issues might need a little more care and prevention in the future. It’s advisable to consult a veterinarian to see if your horse is facing an acute case. If so, he will need a single administration of a short-acting corticosteroid. In the long run, you should help your horse to avoid or eliminate the triggering factors. Change paddocks and bedding, remove all the supplements for a while, and regularly consult your veterinarian to ensure you haven’t missed some of the signs.



    Whenever your horse looks like his skin itches, you should suspect pruritus. The best example of pruritis is a sweet itch, or also known as summer eczema. It’s an allergic reaction that happens due to the Culicoides bites that mainly occur on your horse’s neck, around his dock, or on his belly. These areas will become covered with a crusty rash that will itch your horse like crazy, forcing him to rub and scratch to reduce the discomfort he is feeling at the moment.

    Treatment: A veterinarian will have to find out the real problem causing the itching to bring relief to your horse. As a long-term therapy, your veterinarian will probably suggest essential fatty acids as they are very beneficial for the horse in that condition. By adding them to your horse’s feed, he will get the oils to the coat and skin, which will prevent his skin from drying. Your horse might also be prescribed glucocorticoids as they’re very effective in treating pruritus. However, horses shouldn’t be using them for a more extended period as they can cause adverse effects. Also, topical creams can be beneficial as they will provide instant relief, but they can’t cure pruritus. There are several other products your veterinarian might prescribe as well, so that’s why it’s crucial to consult the professional instead of treating your horse on your own.



    Unlike the first two reactions, anaphylaxis is an extreme, systematic allergic reaction. It happens after repeated exposure to something that makes your horse hypersensitive. It doesn’t develop gradually, so your horse will face quick responses such as sudden blood pressure drop and struggling to catch a breath. Sometimes, horses even go into shock and, unfortunately, die if the situation is not handled correctly. Mild allergic reactions will often clear up on their own, and there will be no need for treatment.

    Treatment: In the extreme situations where your horse’s life is at stake, he will need a quick administration of epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline. That will stimulate his body and raise his blood pressure immediately. Additionally, the horse might receive dexamethasone to reduce internal swelling and open his airways so he can breathe normally again. The veterinarian can also prescribe other medications, such as anti-histamines, to calm this allergic reaction. 

    Common triggers

    The most common causes of allergic reactions, such as hives and pruritis, are insect bites. We already mentioned  Culicoides when talking about pruritis; the proteins in their saliva can trigger an allergic reaction in your horse. Of course, other biting and stinging insects can also be responsible for these reactions.

    Another common cause of allergic reactions in horses is environmental allergens. Pollen, mold, and dust which your horse inhales result in hives or other skin symptoms. As they’re environmental allergens, they differ from location to location due to climate, plants, trees, and many other factors. 

    We also have to mention contact allergens that can include almost anything in contact with the horse’s skin - bedding, shampoo, fly sprays, lotions, pasture plants, or any other product. As this is something you can’t eliminate, you can always replace it later with another one when suspecting that a particular product is causing any skin irritation for your horse. 

    Horses can also have an allergic reaction to various drugs prescribed by a veterinarian. Ace (acepromazine), antibiotics (penicillin), and bute (phenylbutazone) can cause rashes or anaphylaxis. Besides drugs, allergic reactions to vaccines happen pretty often as well.  

    Helping your horse

    • If insects are the issue, apply a fly repellent containing highly effective chemical permethrin during the fly season.
    • Keep horses sensitive to Culicoides during the early morning and evening hours when these insects are most active.
    • Fine mesh screening can help keep the midges out of stalls, and fans can help by keeping air moving in the barn.
    • Making a skin test helps develop shots custom-tailored to your horse’s allergies.
    • Using topical medications and shampoos will help to calm skin reactions.
    • Supplement your horse’s feed with omega-3 fatty acids as it reduces reactions to Culicoides bites.
    • When you discover the allergen, eliminate it as much as you can from your horse’s life.
    • Fans in the stalls help with reducing the possibility of the insect bites
    • Use fly masks, sheets, and repellents for equine use when horses are outside.


    Unfortunately, you can’t make your horse live in a bubble and protect him from all the possible allergens around him. To give him the freedom of enjoying the environment around him, you will have to accept the risk of your horse getting an allergic reaction someday. And that’s completely normal. The vital thing here is to be informed about allergies and always consult a veterinarian to eliminate adverse horse outcomes.

    Share with us your experience with horse allergies? How did you notice it, and what has helped your horse the most? Sharing is caring! Don’t forget.

    1 Response

    Lyn Cashmore
    Lyn Cashmore

    April 24, 2023

    Hi, can some feeds, grain and hay give horses runny manure? She’s a 3 year old mini filly, vets been out, been drenched, bloods taken, electrolytes given and wormed. This has been done twice, now manure runny again. 😩

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