the ongoing equine allergy saga

So, I’ve known for many years that my horse has allergies. It’s been a constant source of frustration and a never-ending battle to keep him breathing freely.

My horse Beau has what is known as Recurrent Airway Obstruction, or RAO. He has the equivalent of mild asthma, to put it into human terms. It’s manageable, but just barely, and often surprises me what can trigger a flare up.

It all started when he suffered from influenza about five years ago, just a couple of months after I bought him. He was perfectly fine before then without any respiratory issues whatsoever, at least none of which I was aware. Ever since that fateful illness, I’ve struggled to keep him breathing as effortlessly as I can.

He was going on two years old when that happened, and a year and a half later, I finally had him blood tested for allergies. While the general consensus is that blood testing can produce false positives, I’ve learned of many triggers that weren’t tested but which I’ve observed, so there are a lot of missed items too. At least the testing was a starting point, and none of his positives were false of those I’ve had the misfortune to observe.

Since that testing the summer after Beau turned three, I’ve had him on allergy shots. However, in the last year, they hadn’t seemed to be making any difference, but I don’t really know if they ever did. The fact is that shots are more effective for dermatological allergies than respiratory allergies, but I would do anything. I’ve gotten so frustrated this past year that I stopped giving allergy shots just recently and haven’t seen any difference so far, which is why I’m not sure they did any good.

Last year we had mild suspensory ligament injuries to worry about. Since January of this past year, Beau’s allergies turned into something ugly. I could not figure out the mystery. I only knew that he’d get so bad that he’d have to go onto antibiotics because of the infection that would develop; but he’s allergic to penicillium, so that rules out a large class of drugs, and the one that I tried made him miserable with hacking up his lungs. The cure was worse than the disease. I pray that nothing else comes up to put a crimp in his career.

We’ve gone around and around all year long with this respiratory problem. I suspected many different causes but nothing made a lick of difference to remove. Among his many allergies, Beau is allergic to corn, wheat, apples (observed, not tested), and molds, which can be avoided without too much trouble. His other allergic triggers are less likely to cause trouble since he a) is not likely to ingest them, b) has a dermatological reaction, or c) both a and b. The big problem with the four I listed is that he’s very reactive to tiny amounts of them and the first three are often included in supplements in some form or another. I’ve learned to read labels carefully, just as any parent does for a child with issues.

But I’ve been having suspicions of something not so easily avoided, something every horse should be given–probiotics. These bacteria and yeast cultures are needed even in horses to maintain proper digestive function. And since I’ve seen the devastation of colic, I’ll do all I can to avoid it with Beau. Part of that is to give him these beneficial organisms.The problem is that, of the different products I’ve tried with him so far, he’s always had respiratory troubles.

A few days ago, I took Beau off probiotics and the next day, he was nearly cough-free. This was amazing to me, both for good and ill. While I believe that I have found the culprit of a new allergy, I don’t know what part of the supplements may be causing the reaction–is it the bacteria, the yeast, or some inert ingredient? I read labels carefully, but allergies can change.

I’ve started Beau on a different supplement to help his energy levels–he can’t be off supplements or he is totally listless. I have to wonder if he isn’t anemic on top of everything else. So far, so good on this new supplement, but I’ll be giving it a few days before I do the snoopy dance and scream it to the mountains. Then, it’ll be time for a second supplement, a digestive supplement intended to help keep ulcers and colic at bay. I’m praying this supplement works, since it doesn’t have any known allergy triggers in the ingredients and it is from a company I trust. If this doesn’t work, there is one more product I can try before I run out of viable options. If he has a reaction to both, I will be pretty certain of the yeast or bacteria being the true cause of problems; but if all goes well for a long time, that will be my greatest Christmas present I could want this year ;)

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