All about skin rashes

  • They look alarming, but skin rashes are often an allergic reaction that will quickly pass, says HORSE magazine

    Urticaria – also known as nettle rash or hives – is a dramatic allergic reaction, which manifests as raised patches on the skin.

    The skin lesions develop rapidly and often disappear within a few hours. They start as small bumps, which become larger and spread to form doughy areas of swelling.Although serious harm is unlikely, an affected horse can look very uncomfortable.

    What causes the condition?

    Urticaria is the result of an allergic reaction to something the horse has been in direct contact with, inhaled or, more unusually, eaten. It can be hard to determine the precise cause, but possibilities include pollens, insect bites, insect repellents, shampoos and medicines. Whatever it is, it will be something the horse has become sensitive to as the result of previous exposure, rather than a new substance.

    When should you call the vet?

    • If the horse is distressed or his breathing is laboured
    • If the eyelids and muzzle are very swollen
    • If there is no improvement after 24 hours

    The majority of cases will clear up without treatment and never recur. If it happens again your vet will need to check that there isn’t a more serious underlying allergy. Sometimes the skin lumps persist, in which case steroids can be used to eliminate the cause or treat the condition.

    Nettle rash

    Occasionally a horse will fall or roll into nettles. The effects can be distressing and uncomfortable, particularly to a thin-skinned Thoroughbred-type. Often, if it were not for the recognisable rash and the circumstantial evidence of squashed nettles nearby, it would be easy to think it was something much more serious.

    Affected horses may be lame, weak and wobbly,or repeatedly turn round to look at their flanks as if they had colic. Things should settle down rapidly, but, if symptoms persist, contact your vet for advice.

    Don’t miss the September issue of HORSE magazine, available at your newsagents from 8 August.

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