Just like humans, cats, and dogs, horses can also suffer from allergies. Allergic reactions can occur in response to insects, medications, food, and environmental factors.

An allergic reaction can look like a breakout of hives, rashes, itching, and/or hair loss. If your horse is allergic to something that was inhaled, your horse may start coughing, sneezing, or make a wheezing sound when breathing. Most allergic reactions respond well to a dose of an anti-inflammatory medication.

If you want to completely resolve the allergy, it is important to identify what is causing the allergy and remove it from the horse’s environment. To identify the allergen in question, consider whether you have recently purchased new materials or equipment (think hay, saddle bags, or other tack) or sourced it from a different vendor. It can be difficult to figure out what may have caused your horse to develop an allergic reaction, but working closely with your veterinarian to identify recent changes or stressors, as well as exploring different medication options, will ensure that your horse receives the best treatment.

Is my horse allergic to bug bites?

Unseasonably high levels of rainfall can cause an uptick in equine cases of insect bite sensitivity. Horses with insect bite sensitivity will generally appear to be more agitated, constantly biting their legs and flanks, stomping their feet, and swishing their tails. You may also notice small welts, hives, areas of hair loss, or scabs on your horse where the bugs have been biting.

It is possible for your horse to contract bug-related skin diseases, but these can often be regulated with good fly control, deworming schedules, and by adjusting your horse’s daily routine.

  • Adjust your horse’s routine: Most insects have a preferred time of day for feeding, so changing the time of day your horse is turned out can help minimize insect bites. If your horse seems to get a lot of insect bites during the middle of the day, try turning them out only at dawn and dusk.
  • Invest in anti-fly gear: Provide your horse with a fly sheet, fly mask, and fly booties to add protection against biting insects.
  • Keep the air moving: Place strong fans and fly traps inside your barn to help decrease the fly population.
  • Don’t let bugs breed: Regularly remove manure, standing water, and garbage to eliminate breeding grounds for most insects.

If all else fails, consider investing in a product that remediates the fly population on your property. The product Fly Predators® by Spalding Laboratories™ can be spread on property to kill developing fly larvae by laying eggs in fly pupae. There are also several insect growth regulator supplements on the market, which contain insecticides that safely pass through your horse’s gastrointestinal tract with no effects on your horse, and work by killing flies that feed on your horse’s manure.

Insects can be a nuisance to both you and your horse, but taking extra measures to eradicate them can improve your horse’s comfort and happiness.