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Horses and Allergies: Try Omegas!By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · July 25, 2017

Have you ever found your horse covered with hives? Those splotches of raised, itchy patches of skin seem to come out of nowhere and irritate your horse unmercifully.

Hives, also called wheals and urticaria, occur for several reasons, including pollens in the environment, medications, contact irritants (such as shampoos and conditioners), and insect bites, such as Culicoides spp.

“Diet can also contribute to the development of hives. Horses can be allergic to a number of feed ingredients such as wheat, corn, oats, soy, or even any microbes such as fungi or mold potentially contaminating the feedstuffs,” added Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

Diagnosing the underlying cause of recurring hives in horses can be extremely time-consuming, expensive, and perhaps most of all, wrought with frustration—as frustrating as it is for horse lovers to be told by their own allergists that they should simply avoid exposure to horses to avoid a reaction, coincidentally the same treatment strategy—avoidance—typically recommended for horses with allergies. This recommendation stems from the prevailing theory regarding allergies, which suggests that continuous, natural exposure to an allergen increases the intensity of allergic symptoms over time.

According to one study*, horse lovers that are allergic to horses may now have an alternative option: exposure to American Baskhir Curly Horses. In that report, one allergic rider participating in 60 riding lessons on Curly Horses in a six-month period became clinically tolerant to normal horse breeds, a more welcome outcome than avoiding horses for the remainder of her life.

“While adopting Curly Horses won’t cure your own horse of its allergies, this research does show that there are still many aspects of allergies we do not understand. Further research in this field is certainly warranted to find better treatment options,” noted Crandell.

She added, “Supplementing allergic horses with omega-3 fatty acids, such as KER’s EO•3 that contains DHA and EPA, can provide relief from various allergens.”

*Mitlehner, W., H.C. Mitlehner. 2017. Tolerance induction of horse allergy by horse contact with Curly Horses. Pneumologie. 71(7):480-483.