I’ve written here before about how Tristan is prone to hives and other allergy manifestations through the summer and fall. It’s something that’s cropped up on and off since his Cushing’s diagnosis a number of years ago.
Usually, he gets 200mg of cetirizine every day (100mg in each meal) to combat that. Last summer, he started on July 1 and didn’t have a single problem all summer.
This summer…we haven’t been so lucky. He’s had small patches on and off pretty consistently. Now, hives aren’t really a problem-problem, especially when they crop up in small patches on say his neck and butt.
But when they pop up the way they did last Friday, they are a problem. I got a text from the barn saying he’d come in covered in hives, and came out later that afternoon to find, wow, yes, almost every inch of his body was pulpy with hives. As in, you could run your hand down his side and there was barely any smooth skin anywhere.
So then started about three days of stall rest and medicated bathing. I would say there was maybe a 5-10% improvement by Sunday night. Clearly not enough after 48 hours.
So, Monday morning the barn manager checked in with me; she wanted to get more aggressive, and she was particularly concerned about the hives she saw on his cheeks and neck. She said she felt his lymph nodes were swollen. Now – he has a verrrrrry thick neck/jaw tie-in, and I’ve been concerned about overly prominent lymph nodes in the past. So I wasn’t quite as worried about that as she was, but I also trust her completely, and if she was concerned and wanted to ratchet up treatment, I was okay with that.
Here’s the rub, of course: Tristan’s Cushing’s diagnosis was also the reason we’d waited so long to go the intervention route. Horses with metabolic issues really should not have steroids if it can be helped at all. With that in mind, we started on Monday morning with 10ccs of banamine, and there was some improvement to that, especially in his neck, but not enough. That afternoon, after consulting with the vet, he got 5ccs of dexamethasone, a steroid commonly used to fight allergies.
The barn staff kept him in and kept an eye on him, and I went back to check him a few hours later – cool feet, perky pony, and a significant reduction in hives. Not 100% gone but finally responding the way they needed to. Whew all around.
Wednesday, by the time you read this blog post, I’ll have gone out in the morning to give him some hand-grazing time and see how he tolerates that. I strongly believe this particular reaction was the result of a bug bite and not something he ate. Because of his history of allergies, the barn staff is very careful about which pasture he goes on, and he wears a fly sheet to prevent any contact irritation. These hives were everywhere, which to me means systemic, and so it seems the best culprit is a fly bite.
Vermont has started the very beginnings of fall – some leaves are turning, and our highs are in the mid-60s this week. As dramatic as this episode was, with some luck it’s the last of summer problems for him. If everything goes well with his hand grazing, he can go back on turnout on Thursday and if the hives in his saddle area are gone, I’ll get some riding time in again too.