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Allergy Signs in Horses

I have an 11-year-old Saddlebred gelding. He is a roarer and had a failed tie back surgery years ago. I try to keep his feed moist and am conscious of his breathing. He is starting to have allergy symptoms like runny nose, coughing, eye discharge. Do I need to start him on a supplement? He seems fine otherwise.

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Any horse with a runny nose, coughing, and eye discharge should be seen by a veterinarian, even one with a previous history of a non-infectious respiratory condition. It can be tempting not to take these signs seriously, thinking you know the cause, but doing so may lead to worse problems in this and other horses. That’s because the problems you list here aren’t classic for “roaring” or laryngeal hemiplegia but are common in contagious diseases like equine herpesvirus, influenza, and strangles, making it vital to have a vet exam. In addition to ruling out these and other respiratory illnesses which can spread from one horse to another and even be life-threatening, obtaining a diagnosis could rule in something like inflammatory airway disease or recurrent airway obstruction, now grouped together as Equine Asthma Syndrome.

Knowing whether your horse has an infectious disease caused by bacteria or viruses or an inflammatory condition caused by environmental factors is the key to developing a treatment and management plan. On the one hand, your horse may need antibiotics, repeat nasal swabs, and quarantine. On the other hand, corticosteroids and fresh air may be prescribed. An accurate diagnosis helps you select the appropriate course of action while not selecting the wrong approach. It also gets the horse feeling better more quickly and, in the long run, may actually end up costing less.

Once you know what you’re up against, then it’s time to talk to your vet about the role supplements may play in supporting your horse’s respiratory system and overall health. Research suggests that providing antioxidants – especially Vitamin C – may be beneficial to horses with airway disorders. Some of my other favorite ingredients in this category include omega 3 fatty acids, MSM, N-acetyl cysteine, and herbs.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in Ask the Vet

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3 comments on “Allergy Signs in Horses
  1. Sharon terao says:

    I need help my 20 yr old gelding has been having the squirts when he poops he is on alfalfa/grass hay! He seems to have an allegedly to alfalfa! He was doing fine on wheat hay! But we’re at a new place and I cannot afford a stall to feed him wheat hay! Can you help me I do give him force!

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Thanks for your question, Sharon. My first suggestion would be to work closely with your veterinarian to confirm the cause of your gelding’s loose stool. Keep in mind that changes in environment can be stressful on a horse’s digestive system. This could include your horse’s recent move as well as the change in hay.

      Since loose stool is one of those conditions that can vary from horse to horse, it may be useful to keep a journal. This can help you keep track of how your horse is doing, and what seems to be the most helpful for him. You can then review this information with your vet to help you uncover the root cause of the issue, and develop a plan of action.

      – Dr. Lydia Gray

  2. Debbie Cooley says:

    Found my mare this afternoon with raised whelps on her underbelly – one very large. Other areas that were oozing an amber liquid on her neck, throat latch, hip…. Vet had me give her a shot of dexamethazone & will check her in the morning. I want to know what supplements she might need to boost her immune system. I relocated her from Colorado to the panhandle of Tx… Much dryer/dustier climate with big bugs…

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