STEVE: Allergies are best or first seen in most horses on the skin. Typically, what we see is a hive reaction of usually around the neck and shoulders. A lot of times, this can be due to exposure because of what they put their head down in and whatever. It can also be a contact dermatitis. Around the head and eyes, you see some swelling, typically where it looks like their eyes are puffy, and it looks like they’re partially closing up. Around the nose, you’ll see quite a bit of enlargement around their nostrils and their lips. These are also indicative that a horse potentially has a local exposure due to, I mean, you name it. It can be anything from a food allergy to a contact allergy dermatitis.

These things, as a rule, subside quite readily, but they can also be indicative that if you’ve got a systemic anaphylaxis or generalized allergy reaction, that they may need to be addressed by a professional right away. If you see this type of swelling and what they call a urticarial or skin-type reaction, which creates a lot of edema due to histamine release, you may need to call a veterinarian to get both an antihistamine a systemic cortisone or steroid shot or something in order to stop this swelling because not only can it affect them cutaneously, but it can also create quite a bit of edema in the upper airway and could obstruct their airway and be a life-threatening situation.

So if you hear them making a bit of an occluded rough noise when they breathe or inspire, when it sounds like they’re becoming like they’re choking almost a little, you might need to call a professional as soon as possible, and this very well could be an emergency situation. So this is in the acute phase.

In the long-term situation, what you’ll see is the edema stays around just on the skin, around the head, and things like this for a while. These types of cases may need to go on a dietary supplement of antihistamine or some corticosteroids, i.e. dexamethasone powder, whatever, in their feed for a few days, or would require maybe an injection for a few days in order to take this edema away and stop the clinical systems.

ALEX: What about like around the barn? A lot of horses can be allergic to straw, their bedding, shavings, or different types of hay. So what’s a person to do, or how would they eliminate or find out what would be the cause of an allergy?

STEVE: Well, if it is a bedding situation, and you end up seeing it, let’s say for instance if you’re on straw, and they’re reactive to maybe something that’s right on the straw, a lot of times you’ll see it on their side when they lay down, if they don’t have a blanket on, or you’ll see it on their legs, or you’ll see it on their muzzle. You can go ahead and start changing these kind of things out and start removing the straw, putting them on shavings is what I usually recommend to start with, and you can see an immediate decline or complete removal of the edema or local reaction.

If it turns out that’s not the case, then you’ve have to go into a little bit more depth as far as trying to figure out what the cause is. A lot of times what we find out then is it tends to be a food allergy, or maybe it’s something their hay or the feedstuffs that they’ve been eating have been sprayed with, and you may need to change feeds. You may need to go with something that’s very, very clean, a certain type of feed that’s dust-free and what not in order to try to start eliminating what the cause is. But this is a systemic process that you have to go through in order to make that diagnosis.

When you’re on the road, if you get a horse that has an allergy, a lot of times it can be from something just because of the environment, new environment, it’s something they haven’t been exposed to before, and they’ll have a local reaction.

A lot of times you can just work on it topically. You can wipe them down with some alcohol in order to try to remove whatever the cause is, or you may go with some systemic corticoid steroids. It just depends on if you’re racing or showing or whatever it is that you’re doing. What you’ve got to worry about there is that you give them medication that would test. I mean, you can’t have antihistamines in a race horse or certain steroids in racing jurisdictions, so you’ve got to be careful about what you actually administer to them yourself or have administered to them.

So you kind of have to be careful about how you attack or approach treating things when you’re on the road. As far as show horses are concerned, most of the time the steroids aren’t a big deal. So if you’ve got to give them a pack of edluar or dexamethasone, no big deal, and basically you’ll deal with it when you get home.

Typically these things subside when you remove the inciting cause. As a rule.