hives · Uncategorized

Happy Hives Season! (Not.)

I’ve written about this before, but the first summer after his Cushings diagnosis, Tristan came out all over in hives. Bad hives. Fast. It was a lot of fun! He got lots of baths, some IM shots of allergy meds, and then OTC allergy meds, and then finally prescription allergy meds.

For the two summers after that, we started him on the prescription allergy meds as soon as it started to get hot (so, late June/early July) and a fly sheet whenever he’s out. He only had very occasional small outbreaks. We never did find out what he’s allergic to. The vet felt strongly that it was topical – but it wasn’t affected at all by baths, and he could still happily and easily get hives underneath his fly sheet. Barn manager and I both feel strongly that it’s something he eats. Something blossoms at this time of summer, and my darling horse feels compelled to eat it.

2015-09-17 10.08.38.jpg

his old fly sheet – that never fit well – and has since been replaced.

The catch – of course there’s a catch – is that the allergy meds are expensive. About $1.50 a day to feed. This year, with the switch to Prascend, I am struggling a little bit to find a way to anticipate and fund the large ongoing vet bills, so I had a conversation with the barn manager. We decided to delay on starting him on the allergy meds this year until we saw that he got hives.

Well, like clockwork, last Thursday he came in with his neck and shoulders a pulpy, hive-y mess. It figures, of course, that I was just starting to feel confident enough after my surgery to ride again. Barn manager (bless her forever, I owe her booze) gave him a long cold shower and started him on the meds. The hives have not spread and are slowly, slowly easing up.


In the first few days of hives, I prefer not to ride. For me, it doesn’t matter whether they’re in the saddle area or not. I worry about speeding up the allergic reaction – getting his blood going which causes it to go faster through his system – and triggering something more severe. That first summer, I was deathly afraid they would move on quickly and cause some kind of respiratory reaction. They came on so fast – within an hour or two he was just covered. Now, I worry a little bit less about that, but I still want the drugs to have time to get into his system.

So, we’re in a bit of a waiting game, which also neatly coincides with waiting for the one-week checkup after my surgery. I’m hoping once I clear the one-week mark his hives will be almost all gone, and I’ll get back in the saddle.

Anyone else have a horse who gets summer hives? How do you treat them? Do you ride through them or give time off?

adventures with the vet · allergies · hives

Summer obstacles: hives

If you’ve followed for a little while, you know that Tristan has struggled on and off with hives over the last few years. I’m pretty convinced that it has to do with his Cushings diagnosis – his immune system just can’t cope as well as it used to.

This year’s bout held off for a long time, since we were proactive – he’s been wearing fly gear and getting a low dose of OTC cetirizine all summer – but when they hit, they came with a vengeance.

First appearance was, of course, about a week before I left for the honeymoon.

These blew up in less than two hours: he was totally fine when the barn manager left after grain, and covered all over when I got there to ride at 7pm.

We started with IM benedryl, a dose that the vet had left with us after last fall’s shenanigans with his tail tumor (because one of the possible side effects of the chemo beads was anaphylactic shock or a lesser but still serious sudden allergic reaction, isn’t Tristan FUN?). (For those playing along at home, this was per the vet’s instructions while on the phone with her and after having sent her the above pictures.)

That helped, but they were back the next day. So I spent a few days giving him a bath every night with long rinses of cold water and a sensitive skin shampoo. In the meantime, no more grass for him; he was sent to a dry lot with tossed hay.

(We also did some work trying to isolate other factors, but nothing had changed for him, and he wasn’t getting anything that was not shared with other horses, from hay to grain to water to shavings and so on and so forth. Our best guess was that something was blooming or going to seed in the pasture – which even then are of course mowed down regularly – and that was setting him off.)

Yeah, he LOVED that.

That helped but it did not actually solve anything. Next up: the vet. I couldn’t be there when she was, so after some phone calls and emails back and forth, during which I was able to dig back into my obsessive notes and document for her the dates and duration of Tristan’s bouts of hives for the past three years, we went forward with a course of treatment.

First: since he is Cushings but not insulin-resistant, and because his Cushings is under control and responsive to pergolide, he was a candidate for dex. So he got a shot of dex at the vet visit and then 5 more days of decreasing dosage, which made a big difference.

Second: he had been getting 20mg cetirizine 1xdaily as a preventative. He was now to go up to 200mg 2xdaily as a treatment.

Except by the time the cetirizine order was called in to Wedgewood I was in Europe so the vet dropped off a supply from her own stores and that took a little longer, so in the meantime the hives came back. Which meant that he didn’t get ridden at all while I was away – so basically he did not get ridden through all of August. I didn’t want to irritate the hives, or rev up his metabolism in a way that would make them worse in case this was an allergic reaction that went deeper.

Once he got the higher dose of cetirizine on board, the hives receded and – knock wood – it’s been almost 4 weeks and they have not returned.

In the meantime, the Wedgewood order came in and we are leaving the danger season, so I have a fresh bucket of cetirizine ($$$, sigh) in the fridge to keep good until next June, when he will start on it and stay on it through the summer and we will hopefully not monkey around with this bullshit again.

I swear, I keep telling people that he used to be an easy keeper and they don’t believe me.