Last Updated on March 11, 2022 by Allison Price

Horses can experience discomfort from plants, insects, and chemicals.

These reactions can be divided into multiple areas:

  • A food allergy refers to an abnormal immune reaction that is usually caused by a specific protein or ingredient in the food.
    • It can lead to what we call uticaria, plaque, bumps, or hives. These are visible on the skin. These are sometimes called protein bumps. They are not an allergic reaction to too many proteins, but a reaction only to one protein. (Equine Clinical Nutrition by Dr. Lon D. Williams, Wilkins 1995 p 20.
    • This protein can be obtained from feed ingredients, but it also could be inhaled or eaten from other materials or insect bites.
    • A horse may become allergic to a particular allergen in herd, while horses from other groups might not be affected. It may be necessary to exempt feed or perform allergy testing in order to identify the allergen.
    • The extreme case in humans is something like a peanut allergy, where a small amount can cause a life-threatening situation.
  • An allergy to feed or food does not exist, but there might be similar symptoms.
    • A person may not be able to digest a particular ingredient properly, which can lead to digestive problems.
    • Examples of human examples could include lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance. Although this has not been proven in horses, it may be possible.
  • Horses may experience irritation if they come in contact with certain substances that cause tissue irritation.
    • Horses that are sensitive to chemicals in grooming products or fly sprays may experience skin irritation or hair loss.
    • An allergic reaction and irritation may occur from insect bites.
    • Skin surface reactions may be caused by chemical irritants, whether they are from an insect, plant, or synthetic source.

It may be necessary to pay attention to unusual skin symptoms and digestive problems. Sometimes luck is a good thing. Your veterinarian may be able to help you determine the exact cause and to search for possible causes.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!