Insect Bite Hypersensitivity in Horses

Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price

Bug bite allergy (or insect bite hypersensitivity) is a very common problem in the summer. Horses that are susceptible to insect saliva can be allergic. All horses can be allergic to bites from any insect. The most common is Culicoides Spp. (no-see -ums and gnats.

Horses allergic to insect bites may experience hives, itching, hair loss, or dermatitis. The clinical signs and year they occur are usually enough to diagnose insect bite hypersensitivity. Only intradermal allergy testing can make a definitive diagnosis.

First, you must repel and avoid insects. Many fly sprays have pyrethrin insecticides which are susceptible to ultraviolet light. It is important that you read labels on pyrethrin fly products to ensure they contain a sunscreen to prolong their activity.

Insect Bite  in Horses

Culicoides Spp. Horses prefer to be fed at dawn and dusk, so they can be turned out when the insects are least active. Stalls have box fans that help keep Culicoides in check. Horses should be kept away from the insects as they are small and can’t withstand strong air currents. Routine barn maintenance such as the removal of manure or standing water disrupts insect breeding and reduces its numbers.

The goal of initial treatment for insect bite hypersensitivity is to stop itching and/or hives. To reduce inflammation, you can use decreasing doses of corticosteroids. Antihistamines are usually ineffective on their own.

As a long-term treatment for horses suffering from insect bite hypersensitivity, or other allergies, Omega-3 fatty acid, such as those in high quality marine-derived oil can prove to be particularly beneficial. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce skin inflammation and promote healthy hair without side effects from corticosteroids.

Many horses can be treated for insect bite hypersensitivity by using insect repellants, strategic turning out, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, and symptomatic antiinflammatory therapy during peak insect season.

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!