Battling Equine Allergies

Are there any herbal remedies for seasonal allergies’ I live in Arizona. During the summer, it’s hot and humid and my horse has allergies. She’s so itchy that she rubs her face raw and the vet puts her on steroids to clear it up. I know the steroids do the job, but I don’t want to put her on them every year. Are there any alternatives’

Horse Journal Response

Skin allergies are frustrating to treat, especially when they are insect-related, which is the case in many summer allergies. If her problem is limited to her face, though, you may have some options. If you notice patchy areas of hair loss before the scratching has rubbed her skin raw, you may be dealing with a fungal infection rather than an allergy.

Try treating these spots with Lotrimin-brand athlete’s foot cream (the other brands have different ingredients and can sting). If the areas are on white-haired/pink-skinned spots, photosensitivity could be the problem. Cover with a thick layer of zinc-oxide cream before turnout in the sun.

If it truly is an allergy, be sure her copper and zinc intakes are adequate and balanced to the mineral profile of your feed and hay. Feeding Spirulina (a blue-green algae available at health-food stores), 1 oz. twice a day, a few weeks before her usual problem time, may help. Some horses have avoided corticosteroids by getting chondroitin supplements (2500 mg daily), recently found to help block allergic reactions.

Since so many skin allergies are insect-related, a well-fitted fly mask should help, and use repellents around the edges where insects may be able to slip inside the mask.

Joint Products For Lyme

My mare was exposed to Lyme disease long before I got her and she gets her joints injected yearly (if needed) and is injected with Adequan monthly. Am I wasting my money on joint supplements, which I’m also giving her’ My vet said it was more for my peace of mind than the horse’s benefit. Of course, the people selling the supplements disagree. What is correct’

Horse Journal Response

There are more studies demonstrating benefit from oral joint nutraceuticals than there are on any effect from monthly Adequan injection (no studies). That said, your horse is your best indicator of what works.

If you started both treatments at the same time, the only way to tell if the joint supplement was helping would be to stop it. However, there are reports in people of improvements lasting up to three months after stopping. An alternative would be to try another joint supplement, or increase the dose of the one you have until you have a therapeutic dose of at least glucosamine, to see if there is any improvement.

Colic And Rose Hips

We just had to euthanize a mare due to bad colic. Our vet felt she was severely impacted or twisted and possibly beyond surgery even if we could have afforded it. In the days before the colic we noticed her eating wild rose hips.

I was wondering if anyone has heard of this causing impactions since rose hips are very fibrous inside. If she ate an extreme amount I was thinking it may have blocked her. There was still a lot of grass on our property and we were starting to feed hay, and this was the only different thing that may have caused her colic.

Horse Journal Response

It’s often very difficult, if not impossible, to say for sure what caused a colic. Left to their own devices, horses often consume a variety of extremely fibrous materials including tree bark, fencing, even wood chips, and they definitely like rose hips.

If your vet felt she was possibly beyond surgery, it probably wasn’t an impaction. Impactions can cause unrelenting pain that is often severe, but the color of their membranes, their pulse and respiratory rate tend to stay fairly good unless they have ruptured.

Risk factors identified for colics in general include a decrease in level of exercise and change in feeding (hay or grain). Very fine hays (fine coastal Bermuda) are more often suspected than fibrous ones although that was only one study.

Inadequate water intake is a significant risk factor for impactions, especially in winter if the water is too cold to encourage good drinking.

Grass And Antioxidants

I read articles on antioxidants and the vitamins and minerals horses get from eating grass. My question is, how much pasture time does a horse need to receive all those benefits’ I usually only give them 2 to 3 hours in pasture.

Horse Journal Response

There’s no concrete way to give you an answer since it’s never been specifically studied, and it would also depend on how much your horse is eating when turned out. Horses that are out all the time don’t spend all their waking hours eating, and horses that only have limited time on grass can consume an amazing amount in that short time.

As a best guess, we’d say that 2 to 3 hours is a sufficient time for your horse to be benefiting from fresh grass. We would probably still supplement with 1000 to 1500 IU of vitamin E as a precaution, especially if you are working him.

IR and Glucosamine

Recently you have run articles on insulin resistance (IR) and joint supplements. I have read elsewhere that glucosamine can exacerbate insulin resistance. My 18-year-old mare fits the profile for a horse who may develop equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), although she has had no lameness or laminitis so far. With the help of my vet and your articles, I designed a lo-carb diet with supplementation that she has been on for a year. She responded very well, losing weight I hadn’t been able to get off her for years, despite regular, athletic exercise. What joint supplement do you recommend for an EMS horse’

Horse Journal Response

Glucosamine remains controversial for EMS, and there are no equine studies looking at this. On the human and experimental end, intravenous glucosamine definitely can trigger insulin resistance, but oral studies all showed no effect until the most recent one in people that showed people that already had borderline insulin sensitivity worsened after six weeks of taking glucosamine. Caution at least is indicated.

In your situation, chondroitin sulfate might be the best choice. The avocado/soy unsaponifiables have also been shown to block experimentally induced arthritis in horses. Meticulous attention to hoof balance and regular daily exercise are also excellent preventatives.


Can a horse pick up the bad habit of cribbing from another nearby horse’ Does this happen often’

Horse Journal Response

There are many opinions on cribbing and whether or not it is a learned behavior, but no solid conclusion. It has been said that foals of mares that crib are more likely to be cribbers, but it’s also not proven. Many cribbing mares have foals that don’t crib. The bulk of the evidence to date points to stress (genuine stress, like weaning, or a horse very nervous by nature) and pain, abdominal pain in particular, as causes of cribbing. It would be unusual for an adult horse to start cribbing simply because another horse in the barn cribs, especially if he is relaxed, healthy and happy with his life.

Whole Flaxseeds

You recommend stabilized flaxseed, but I purchase feed-quality flaxseeds. There is nothing on the label that indicates that it&rsqu o;s stabilized. Neither the feed store nor the supplier could tell me if it’s stabilized or not. I don’t want my horses hurt by something I don’t understand. How do I know if it’s stabilized’

Horse Journal Response

If you’re buying flaxseeds whole and grinding them fresh just before feeding, that’s fine. Just be sure to discard damaged seeds and green seeds. The stabilized flaxseed we talk about is preground flax that is stabilized by proprietary processing that deactivates the seed enzymes, which protects the fragile fatty acids. These products are made from human food-grade, low-cyanogenic flaxseeds.

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