With the recent hot weather, we’ve been seeing more and more minor ailments caused by heat, flies and pollen. Here we run through the most common complaints and how you can tackle them effectively.
Good fly control is essential at this time of year as biting flies can be a real nuisance to our horses. You can reduce exposure to flies by turning horses out overnight instead of during the day and avoiding areas with lots of trees or standing water- a windy hillside is ideal! If this is not possible, then fly spray, fly rugs, weekly pour-on products or a combination can be used to repel flies. Bites which become swollen or sore can be hosed or cold packed 2-3 times a day to provide some relief.
Some horses are more sensitive to fly bites than others and may develop hives. Hives are raised patches which develop on the skin due to an allergic reaction. They can vary in size from as small as a 10 pence piece to as large as your palm and may cover large areas of the body. Despite the sometimes dramatic appearance, they rarely require veterinary treatment and most cases will settle down over a few days. Cold hosing can help to soothe any itching. Cases which fail to resolve on their own, excessive itching or lumps that are weeping or discharging should be assessed by a vet.
Fly irritation, and in some cases high levels of pollen, can cause red and watery eyes. As with most things, prevention is better than cure, so in addition to the fly control measures above a good quality fly mask is a worthwhile investment. Weepy eyes can be bathed using a homemade saline solution of a teaspoon of salt dissolved in a pint of cooled boiled water. If you notice any thick discharge, excessive swelling, reluctance to open the eye or discomfort, please call us for advice; as this could be a sign of a more serious issue such as a corneal ulcer or uveitis.
Our horses in the UK are not adapted to high temperatures and therefore are more at risk of overheating during periods of hot weather. As well as being a good way to avoid flies, turning horses out overnight and bringing them in to their stable during the day will help them stay cool. If you do need to turn out during the day, ensure that there is plenty of shade and easy access to fresh water in the field. Exercise should be done early in the morning or late in the evening, and if your horse has been working hard and sweating it is a good idea to offer them water with some electrolytes dissolved in it afterwards. Signs of heat stroke include excessive sweating, rapid breathing, restlessness, stumbling and in the worst case collapse. If you suspect heat stroke, act immediately to cool the horse down by applying cool water all over with a hosepipe or bucket and call your vet as soon as possible.