The Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments of Horse Allergies

Your horse riding friends may have told you horse anaphylaxis horror stories: every equestrian’s worst nightmare. Heaving and breathing heavily, their blood pressure plummets. These cases are rare, but sometimes horse owners have watched their animal friends die from their allergy’s peak, wishing they could have prevented them.

When you first notice bumps on their back and being winded from exercise, it can be easy to assume the worse when you don’t know what they suffer from. If they have allergies, you want to diagnose them early on to avoid the worst possible outcome. The physical signs start out small but if you don’t equip your horse with the proper treatment, it can grow into a serious condition.

We understand your concerns and will explain the most common causes, symptoms, and treatments of horse allergies. Then, you can evaluate your horse and see whether you need cause for concern or just have to purchase creams or take them to the vet to help.

Common Causes for Horse Allergies

Hundreds of individual triggers could spark your horse’s allergies, giving them a harder life ahead. Thankfully, you can break these causes down into three main categories to understand them better: insect bites, environmental allergens, and contact triggers. Overall, the main differences are how they attack your horse, so you can recognize and treat them once you know their identity.

Insect Bites

Equestrians and other horse owners may have already recommended you buy fly spray repellants and insecticides. They suggest this because horses are commonly allergic to insects, after they land on and bite your horse.

It can be difficult to discern whether insect bites are a culprit behind your horse’s symptoms. They naturally cause swelling on horses, even without allergies, so you will need more evidence to confirm these allergic reactions in your horse.

Environmental Allergens

Allergens from inside the barn, the horse bedding, or the air your horse inhales all come from your their environment. Specifically, pollen from cocklebur and ragweed are big culprits, although dusty horse bedding also causes tremendous problems. Your horse’s specific environmental allergies depend upon numerous factors, including your region, season, time of day, etc.

If you pay attention to when and where your horse spends its time, you can identify these pesky allergens.

Horse Products

Finally, horses can be allergic to skin shampoos, coat conditioners, and beddings you use. They can be difficult to find out since you will have to carefully watch when you add or take a product away to see how it affects your animals. Most horse companies engineer these products with allergies in mind, but on occasion, your horses will still suffer from these allergens.

Horse Allergy Symptoms

Although each horse allergy cause has its own unique symptoms, there are overlaps between them. You can look at these physical signs and get a good hunch that your horse may be suffering from allergies.


Hives are small, half-inch swellings that develop on your horse from insect bites, which are similar to what your kids get. These grow in large clusters over time, forming what looks like a belt.

These may not be itchy for horses, but they are allergy indicators that, if you’re not careful, can lead to serious skin reactions. Hives urticaria is one to watch out for.

Respiratory Signs

Mostly environmental allergens cause respiratory signs since the irritants will enter the horse’s lungs. They will swell your horse’s breathing passages, and, if heaves (Recurrent Airway Obstruction) are a part of their allergies, cause chronic coughing, strenuous breathing, and nasal discharging. Ironically, you can notice skin symptoms similar to those from insect bites, changing your mind about respiratory allergies.

This means that with respiratory signs, you want to check your horse top to bottom to make sure you don’t miss anything.


Being the most extreme allergic response, you need to get your horse veterinary help immediately. While difficulty breathing is an easy sign to look for, you should also see horse seizures, comas, excessive droll, and shock. These symptoms give clear guidance that your horse is suffering from a life-threatening allergy situation.

More subtle physical signs like hives, difficult breathes, and nasal discharge come before anaphylaxis, which is why it is important to catch them in their early stages.

Horse Allergy Treatments

There are a variety of treatments your horse can take, not only to treat their symptoms, but also to target the specific allergen. Your vet can recommend specific medicines unique to your horse and reaction circumstances. Regardless, these treatments are good practices you can implement to keep your horse’s allergies (and get rid of them for good).

Change Their Environment

If you’ve been able to pin down that they struggle with allergies are based on their location, you must move them to prevent further complications. For example, you can turn out your horses if you know they suffer from respiratory issues inside the stable, giving them some fresh air. This will keep dust and mold away that had easy access to your horse’s comfy home.

Dusty horse bedding can ignite your animal’s allergies, whether inside or outside, and damage their respiratory systems. We suggest changing it regularly or buying a dust-free kind that protects rather than harms your horse.

Apply Products

You can purchase horse products to alleviate symptoms and prevent skin allergies from coming close. Topical ointments can soothe a horse’s skin from hives and any itchiness they experience. Also, you can stop the insects that cause skin symptoms by using fly sprays. These come as insecticides and repellants, killing or shooing away bugs that would arrive.

Skin Test/Allergy Test

One surefire way to diagnose allergies is to see a horse veterinarian that has expertise doing it. They will ask you questions about potential causes, symptoms, apply products you use, etc. Your horse’s appointment will be smoother if you bring notes of these patterns beforehand and track them as they appear.

Likely, they will administer a skin test, where they will inject a horse with 50-60 allergens and evaluate your horse from a 30 minute to 24 hour period, figuring out exactly what they have.

You can go from here by using other treatment methods or giving them allergy shots to build their immunity to the allergen.

We Sought to Stop Our Horse’s Allergies

With these common allergens, symptoms, and treatments, you will be better equipped in figuring out what your horse has. You will also not have to worry about what symptoms they may or may not have. An anaphylaxis horror story never has to occur and your horse can live a healthy and happy life with proper allergy management.

A big part of our company journey was through discovering how to identify and treat our horse’s allergies. We want to help you prevent any serious allergy complications and can tell you about our personal experiences with horse allergies. Please call our team at (866)-322-5989 and we can get back to you soon.