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Horse advice for lumps and bumps

At Petplan Equine we've teamed up with veterinary expert, Gil Riley, to explain some common causes and what actions to take if your horse is suffering from lumps and bumps.

What are Hives and what causes them?

"Hives", more precisely called "urticharial reaction", are swellings that usually appear on the neck, withers and back of a horse's body, as the result of an allergic reaction. They are recognised as being seasonally recurrent and can affect horses of any sex, breed or age.

  • They occur more commonly in the summer months and are the result of reactions to insect bites, airborne or food allergens or heat.
  • Horses are more susceptible to receiving and reacting to insect bites during these months, as they are turned out in the field for longer periods of time. This is also the case for airborne allergens.

How to spot Hives

  • Hives are recognised as flat, wide lumps, giving the skin a wrinkled appearance. They will often 'pit' when pressure is applied.
  • Itching is common and intensity will vary from mild annoyance to severe scratching, so this must be monitored carefully.
  • In acute cases, itching will increase, swelling converges and in severe cases, it can even interfere with breathing.

Treatment of hives

Prevention is better than a cure, but if your horse is displaying symptoms of hives, treatment may be necessary to stop the reaction worsening and any swelling interfering with your horse's normal functions. If your horse shows signs of pain or discomfort, you should seek veterinary advice immediately.

  • It's worth noting, however, that the majority of cases will clear up in 24-48 hours, so if your horse is not otherwise affected it may be best to hold off any treatment initially. Cold hosing can be useful in soothing heat and irritation.
  • Use a fly sheet when your horse is grazing.
  • Stabling your horse during dawn and dusk in a clean stall will help reduce exposure to biting insects.
  • Apply a pyrethrin-based fly spray at least once before turnout and on warmer days, more than once if possible.
  • If the lumps and bumps do not clear up in a couple of days, seek veterinary advice. Although your horse may not exhibit signs of extreme discomfort or pain, they probably won't feel 100%, so it would be advisable to rest your horse until the condition clears up.

Collagen Lumps

Like hives, collagen lumps also occur as a result of an allergic (hypersensitivity) reaction. They are not as painful as hives, and whilst starting soft, they develop into firm circular bumps, usually around 5mm in diameter. They often appear at the site of a previous trauma, such as an insect bite and are particularly common in the saddle area. It is believed that the damage to the collagen in the skin is caused by an allergic reaction being exacerbated by the saddle pressure. The lumps themselves are not sore, but when in the area of the saddle, the tack and rider can force the hard lump against the underlying muscle of the back, causing discomfort. Although it sounds drastic, the lumps are very effectively dealt with by coring out with a small biopsy punch. The resulting wound can then be left unstitched as it closes within days.

Injuries and illnesses can happen at any time so make sure your horse insurance is up to date, giving you the peace of mind that help is at hand to cover any unexpected veterinary bills that arise. Click here for more information about Petplan Equine horse insurance.