Courtesy of Uckele Health & Nutrition
Nothing ruins enjoying the warm weather with your horse quite like the bane of allergies. Signs run the gamut from sneezing and snorting to wheezing, runny eyes, and agonizing itching.
Allergies are basically a normal immune reaction that becomes misdirected when the body overreacts to ordinary things like grass or pollen and tries to fight them, and a reaction is triggered that results in the release of chemicals like histamine. Why some horses are prone to allergy and not others is not entirely clear, but studies show a strong link to heredity.
Management of the allergic horse includes minimizing exposure to the substance that triggers a reaction as much as possible. Antihistamines may be used to try to prevent the development of new reactions, but antihistamines cannot reverse symptoms already present. Corticosteroids are typically prescribed for problems that do not go away on their own. They are extremely effective, but come with side effects.
We can help the horse by providing supplements that support a balanced immune response. At the most basic level this includes key antioxidant nutrients of Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids. These are vital building blocks for the body’s own antioxidant defenses.
Vitamin C is a key antioxidant both in its own right and by virtue of its ability to reinforce other antioxidants, like Vitamin E, to an active form. It is abundant in fresh grass, but activity is lost rapidly in hays. Vitamin C is particularly important in the respiratory system and the eyes. Flavonoids (e.g. Quercetin) are plant compounds that work together with Vitamin C. MSM also has documented antioxidant activity.
Spirulina is an edible algae that promotes normal balance in the immune system, including supporting the production of antibodies and healthy histamine levels.
Finally, several herbs have been found to support normal immune function. These include Astragalus, Siberian Ginseng, Pau D’Arco and Echinacea. Herbals used topically can also provide soothing relief for temporary skin irritations. Ingredients that excel in this include Aloe Vera, Chamomile, Calendula and Chickweed.
There is no question that allergies can ruin your warm weather fun and create discomfort for your horse, but the good news is that nutritional and herbal approaches can support normal immune function and provide temporary skin relief.
About Dr. Kellon
Dr. Eleanor Kellon is staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition. An established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, Dr. Kellon is co-owner of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via a unique interface between research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.