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Equine Allergies: What You Need to Know
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Equine Allergies: What You Need to Know

The key to keeping your allergy-prone horse comfortable is figuring out the cause of his or her reaction and avoiding them.

Allergies are an immune response to what is generally a harmless substance. Equine allergies primarily affect the skin or respiratory tract in horses of any age and type. Allergic reactions in your horse can be triggered by dust, pollen, insect bites, feed, product or chemicals applied to horses vaccines, drugs, plasma or transfusion.

Equine allergic reactions range from gradual and mildly annoying to sudden and life-threatening. Equine allergies can appear as swelling, redness, crusting or itching at the contact sites, in the case of contact dermatitis (as in sweet itch from insect bites), hair loss, regional or body wide hives, labored breathing, coughing and exercise intolerance in the case of respiratory allergies (as in heaves from dust or mud). In severe cases, allergies might appear as anaphylactic shock.

To diagnose equine allergies, your veterinarian will need to examine where your horse lives, your horse's age, your horse's reaction, seasonality and the location of allergy on your horse's body.

With internal parasites, serum (blood) allergy testing and intradermal allergy tests are the major tests conducted on horses that are suspected to have equine allergies, while other tests, such as lesion biopsy and microscopic examination, are conducted to rule out other causes such as tumors, photosensitization, infection. 

The two main treatments for equine allergies are cleanliness and corticosteroids, while others are antihistamines and an allergy shot.

To prevention equine allergies in horses, it is important to ensure that horses eat clean feed always, that the horse's clothing is always clean, that horses body are washed with medicated shampoo and by feeding your horse with nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acid to help redirect the immune system.

Although most equine allergies are not life-threatening, it is important to keep your horse comfortable by figuring out the cause of equine allergies and the ways to avoid it.

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