Allergic conditions are common in the horse and can manifest themselves as:
- Heaves (COPD)
- Hives (urticaria)
- Dermatitis (especially of the mane and tail)
- Head shaking
- Upper respiratory inflammation
If these conditions are mild and/or seasonal with a short duration each year, it is best to control them with management changes and, if necessary, drugs. If the problem becomes severe enough, or the duration is such that it occurs for a long period of time each year, one option for treatment is to have your horse skin tested for allergies.
In order to skin test your horse, a 10×12 inch area on the side of the neck is clipped and cleaned. Very small needles are used to inject a tiny amount of allergen (the agent that causes the allergic reaction). We test with approximately 60 allergens that are geared toward our geographic location. The skin is monitored for reactions at 30 minutes and 4 hours after the test has begun. Once it is determined what your horse is allergic to, a hyposensitization serum is produced and the desensitization process is begun. In many cases, skin testing and hyposensitization can really help with chronic allergic conditions in the horse.
You may have heard of blood testing for allergies. While this is sometimes done, we do not believe the results are reliable and do not recommend it.