It is so important to always look for the underlying cause of horse symptoms. For example, did you know that most horses with hives do not get them from coming in contact with something in their environment. Yes, insect stings or allergic reactions to bedding can cause hives in horses but they are more commonly a symptom of digestive upset. This is important information on horses with hives because it totally changes how you approach their treatment. Harmful substances that get into the bloodstream and lymphatic system of the horse through a damaged gut lining can cause hives. While drugs often treat horse symptoms such as hives they may not address the cause.
You see the lining of the digestive tract is like an internal skin. It is designed to prevent harmful substances from entering the body from the inside just like our skin prevents them from entering from the outside. When the lining of the digestive tract is healthy the junctions between the cells are very tight. There is also a layer of beneficial bacteria sandwiched in between many tiny folds called villi and then a layer of mucous. All of these together act as a barrier to harmful substances getting into the body.
How the gut lining prevents harmful substances from entering the bloodstream:
Tight junctions between healthy cells
Layers of beneficial bacteria between the intestinal villi
A thin layer of slippery mucous
If harmful substances get past the protective lining of the gut the immune system becomes triggered. The harmful substances are antigens and the immune system forms antibodies to attach to the antigens and neutralize them. These antigen/antibody complexes are what trigger the hive reaction in the skin. The best way to treat the underlying cause of hives in horses is to support healing of the digestive lining.
Support for digestive health in horses involves feeding probiotics to insure a healthy population of gut bacteria. Prebiotics, such as inulin and blue green algae, are food for the beneficial gut bacteria. Another great source of prebiotics is the fermentation products produced by cultures of beneficial bacteria. Digestive products KLPP, Probi and Ration Plus are this type of prebiotic. You will need to feed high levels of pre and probiotics for a period of time to rebuild a healthy gut lining. Once the hives have cleared you can gradually reduce the levels or pre and probiotics but it is best to continue maintenance levels.
Nutrient dense foods, such and blue green algae, nourish the cells lining the gut to help them regenerate and maintain tight intercellular junctions. Avoid drugs, such as steroids and non steroidal anti inflammatory agents, which interfere with the production of protective mucous layers in the digestive tract.
Ways to support a healthy gut lining:
Feed pre and probiotics to support healthy bacteria
Feed nutrient dense foods to nourish the cells themselves
Avoid drugs which interfere with protective mucous
Horse symptoms, such as hives, can be very frustrating to control. Much of the information on horses with hives does not consider the health of the digestive tract. Once you have determined your horse has not been stung by an insect or developed an allergy to his bedding you should look closely at his digestive health. Hives on the skin can be the external symptom of an equally inflamed internal skin.
For more information about Holistic Horse care check out Holistic Horsekeeping