A client led her horse in the other evening covered in hives, lips and nostrils swollen. At first we thought it was a rattlesnake bite, but we have never had rattlesnakes here at Poudre River Stables, a river-basin property, and a closer look revealed no bite marks.
Our client's gelding repeatedly tried to lie down and roll, we now think, because his skin itched. At first, we thought he might be colicking, but it was in fact, a gigantic allergic reaction.
The horse had competed at our fairgrounds earlier in the day, and rolled. We think the cause was something on that ground or our ground. In any case, this is a very sensitive horse, one who has been known to develop a choke and throw himself on the ground. We try to take his complaints seriously.
Regardless of the cause, the lip and nostril swelling still presented a threat if the gelding’s breathing passages closed. (Note to self: Add tubing to our first aid kit!) At the rate the swelling was increasing, we needed to do something fast.
We are very fortunate to have a number of veterinarians boarding with us, and one of them, unable to get her hands on some injectable antihistamine, rushed back to the barn with, believe it or not, a four-ounce bottle of pediatric Benadryl. She poured the children’s cherry-flavored syrup in a large syringe, and shot it down the gelding’s throat. He liked it!
In less than an hour, the horse’s swelling and anxiety had decreased, and he quit begging to roll. Moral to the story: Add to your equine first-aid kit cherry-flavored Children's Benadryl Cherry flavored Allergy 4 fl oz, as an emergency antihistamine for a horse. Note: If at all possible, avoid medicating your horse without a veterinarian’s supervision, and DO NOT medicate anybody else’s horse.
For a complete first aid kit list, try this article at TheHorse.com.