I have had the toughest time with my just turned 6 year Morgan gelding. News Year Eve he broke out in hives for no apparenet reason. He was treated extensively with antibiotics (for the hives that broke open into sores) and with high dosage of Dexamethasone. He is now on Prednisolone and I am unable to taper him down to get him off of this med. At this point he will break out, horrible itching, sores, etc. if I drop him below a certain dosage. My intructions are to drop him off slowly (which I am doing) and if this doesnt work can have him tested. I am cautioned that testing may result in learning that he is allergic to almost everything.

I have preceeded to troubleshoot since Jan, changing feed, hay, blankets ( none were changed at the outset of this). I have not yet elimnated shavings, as he has been on shaviagns all of his life, and my supplier is unchanged as well.

Does anyone have any thoughts ?

10 Responses to Hives

  1. colwilrin says:

    I had one that had problems with hives. We found 2 sources of the problem. The first was alfalfa. It is very high in protein and causes many horses to get hives. Check your hay mix, and any treats you given him. Stop all the alfalfa.

    Second, he was allergic to all sorts of laundry/dish soap. Many people paint the walls, to stop chewing, with a soap/hot sauce mixture. Any of this type of residue that he would lick/chew/get near, would cause a break out. Make sure when you wash the blankets that they are thoroughly rinsed too.

    Good luck! If all else fails, you can try an equine allergy specialist.

  2. bluedesiign says:

    I had a problem last summer with my two year old gelding. What we thought to be hives turned out to be bug bites. They were from biting midges.
    I don’t think they are around at this time of the season but for anyone who encounters this problem in the future, this web site has a lot of good information. The fans and spray really helped. After a few weeks the horses sores started to heal and there was no sign of new ones.

  3. kad says:

    Can you tell me his basic breeding? It may be irrelavent but I would like to see if it fits into a pattern I have experienced.
    I have had 2 mares with the same (or similar) problem in the last 10 years. I found that the only non-steroidal thing to work for them was an over the counter antihistamine. My vet at the time suggested a generic form of Chlor- trimiton that I was actually able to order from the pharmacy by the 1000 count bottle for under $20. I dosed them at 1 tab per 100# twice a day. I had to keep them on it during most of the spring and summer months.It really helped BUT you CANNOT show on it. I would have to stop administering it at least 1 week before the show. I did also fill in a drug form at shows just in case. Neither of those mares liked bathing but I would sponge them with warm water mixed with some Betadine,Vetrolin, and occationally I would add some Mane and Tail conditioner to add a little moisturizer.
    FYI – this is a very big problem over in Ireland and other neighboring countries. So much so that they have a vaccine available over there. So far as I know it is not yet available in the United States.

  4. Flmorgan says:

    In Florida we have alot of allergic horses to a variety of different things. Some just insects[various types] and many molds, dust, plants etc. My gelding is allergic to so many things I can’t even list them. I had him on steriods, until he got a minor case of laminitis, then antihistamines which worked marginally so I had him allergy tested and now he gets allergy shots which are less expensive and far more effective. We have another mare that is also on allergy shots. Some of my horses respond to the Trihist and it keeps them from itching.
    We have a Arabian gelding that was diagnoised with Phemphegas a skin immune disorder. His symptoms sound like what you are discribing. He had skin samples sent to UF for the diagnosis. It was very bad and we thought he may have to be put down. He is fine now after months of treatment with Dex. Be careful of antibioitics as this made his skin worse. He is on a suppliment by 4Life called TransferFactor which is amazing stuff. He has been off the Dex for 3 month now and just on the TransferFactor. He looks great now.
    On the itchy horses we rinse then with Listerine and water. Works great to stop the itching.

  5. KarenL says:

    I second the allergy testing and subsequent desensitization treatments. I’ve got 2 that have been/are being treated- one that manifests her allergies as hives & crazy itching, the other with respiratory stuff (sneezing, coughing, increased respiration). The subcuteaneous shots are easy to give & well worth it! The amount we’ve saved in Tri-Hist & other antihistimines and bathing, etc. not to mention the happiness of the ponies = well worth it!!
    I wrote an article on Miner’s experience w/ allergies in our recent issue of “The Stable Sheet”

  6. Sunshine says:

    Thanks so much for the comments. An interesting thought was the soap ! I spread it everywhere as he also likes to crib (lucky me an itchy cribber). I have used bar soap(Coast) with great luck for cribbing and chewing, this may be the problem.

    I think that I will try to eliminate the soap for a while and then move onto the testing if we still have issues. It is good to know that the testing is recommended. It is quite expensive, but as you say, the cost is quickly approaching the testing cost at this point with the pills, plus possible long term problems with steriods.
    Breeding: He is by Mizrahi out of a Nobility daughter.
    Thanks for the advice on relieving the itch !Poor guy !

  7. colwilrin says:


    Can you move him to a stall that hasn’t been painted with soap? The residue stays in the wood for a long time, and once they blows out in hives, they tend to be ultra-sensitive to it. If you can’t move him, I’d suggest layering some plywood/particle board over the parts that had soap.

    We also noticed that the more hives that blew out…the more our horse chewed (probably from stress of the hives). It was a vicious cycle that stopped once he was moved to a stall that hadn’t been coated.

    I hope you find your answer soon.

  8. Sunshine says:

    I beleive so, excellent advice and thank you. I would have continued the cycle for a long time, it sounds like.


  9. jns767 says:

    The horse I show, TL Bobby Sox (Nobility) gets hives at one particular showground (MSU), but only during the cooler months. He becomes so hivey, in fact, that he has difficulty breathing. Our veterinarian says it’s being indoors in a heated facilty that triggers his hives. I don’t know why that is, or if your horse being in Florida is even cooped up like that, but it’s a thought.

  10. Sunshine says:

    Actually, I live, and my Gelding is currently stabled, in Maine. It is pretty chilly and snowy here still. It occured to me that when the hives began that it could have been from being overly blanketed. I had placed a second blanket on him the evening that the hives began as it was our first night of a real chill here. (the additioanl blanket was on top of the original blanket). I have since kept him to a single blanket.
    Currently, I strip him down every chance I get so the his skin gets air and sun.
    Again thanks for the ideas, it all helps.

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