My horse is allergic to shavings – Feb 18, 2021

Allergies are everywhere. Food allergies, dust allergies, pollen allergies, pet allergies… The list goes on and on. For both people and animals.

We have a young mare that is allergic to pine shavings. I have been a veterinarian for 23 years and have never seen such a thing.

We discovered this when we went to a rodeo camp two summers ago. We used the shavings provided rather than our own from home. The mare (Trouble is her barn name) broke out in full body hives.

I assumed there was something in those particular shavings and went back to our own shavings. Everything was fine for a while. Then last summer she began making a gurgling sound every now and then. She would cough to “clear her throat” and be fine.

I took her to have an endoscopic evaluation of her upper respiratory tract. She had actual “blisters” on her larynx. With a dose of steroids, she would clear up.

The problem is that steroids have a long term side effect of breaking down body tissues. She’s only 5 years old, so daily steroid administration is not an option.

We cleaned out her stall of all shavings, replacing the base bedding with a cat litter substitute.

Safe T Sorb is a general absorbent used in garages most often for oil spills. It’s cheaper than actual cat litter and comes in larger bags.

Then I like to put some cushion on top, especially in this nasty, cold, wet weather here lately.

I prefer paper pellets found in the cat and rodent sections, but it’s difficult to find many times. I have been using chopped barley and wheat straw, which isn’t ideal, as it’s still a grass.

However, it seems to not cause a lot of irritation for her.

She is on several supplements and medications for allergies as well.

She gets generic Zyrtec (cetirizine) 15 tablets once to twice daily depending on how she’s doing. She also gets Equishield SA allergy powder.

She is a barrel horse and to keep her airway clear and healthy, she gets clenbuterol (Ventipulmin) daily as well.

She may still have a bought of coughing and upper airway inflammation, when she does receive a dose of dexamethasone orally.

As soon as the weather clears and everything is up and running again, I will send out an allergy panel. Then we will have vials made up, and she will begin allergy shots.

Airway disease and allergies are creeping up in our animal world. It’s just as important to pay attention and treat allergies for them as it is for us.

Another important help for coughing is having routine chiropractic adjustments. This helps both dogs and horses, as they get out of alignment from coughing and breathing heavy. I keep Trouble adjusted, especially in her neck and ribs.

Praying this winter storm passes on through and everyone stays safe!

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