Sunday, March 6, 2011

Alfalfa sensitivity?

You couldn't ask for better weather, but I can't ride right now. I think Dixie's got an alfalfa photosensitivity thing going on. To make a long story much shorter, earlier this week she had quite a bit more alfalfa than usual - about a flake, as opposed to a couple of mouthfuls. Now the white parts of her face have broken out in itchy scabs, poor thing. I don't think it's a vaccine reaction, because I noticed her lips were a little chapped-looking while I was holding her for the vet. And I can't think of what else could've changed or what else it could be.

White-side lips are the worst:

Bay-side white lips are a tiny bit scabby. This is what the white side lips looked like on Thursday - "huh that's weird, they look chapped."

The inner corner of her eye is a tiny bit tearier than normal, and the outside corner has some scabs. It's also extremely itchy - I scratched her face for a minute, and she absolutely ground her eyesocket into my fingers.

I keep checking her legs and no sign of scratches, which is how alfalfa photosensitivity usually manifests, especially in alkaline Nevada sand. I feel very lucky to have hopefully dodged that bullet. I called the vet, but I don't think this is a come-out-on-Sunday emergency, so hopefully I'll get a call back and appointment for tomorrow morning. I hope she can give me something to help the itchiness, even if I have to somehow syringe Dixie with hydroxyzine.

The only benefit to having an itchy horse is that normally aloof Dixie really appreciates getting scratched. She made ridiculous faces while I scratched her withers and neck. This is a pretty awful video that only horse people will really appreciate.

Dixie is itchy from Funder on Vimeo.

To make up for the awful quality of the horse video, here are the goats.

Goats are crazy too from Funder on Vimeo.

And here's the dawg.

Cersei is crazy from Funder on Vimeo.


  1. It could be an allergic reaction... either to the alfalfa or something else she might have eaten... ?

    It could be something environmental.... considering that you're in Nevada, I imagine you don't have much clover there.... otherwise I would suspect "clover itch" which our horses sometimes get on their noses from eating too much clover...

    Or the alfalfa could have triggered a yeast infection.

    Just some thoughts..... hope she's better soon!

  2. My girls also get some photo-sensitivity, but from clover that pops up in the pasture from time to time. I don't feed any alfalfa, except in the old guy's Senior, so I don't know about that. Their little white noses get so ouchy looking!
    To quote Dixie: "A little to the left...almost...almost... THERE!"

  3. I wonder if you've checked you hay for foxtail?

    I know foxtail can irritate the mouth and face and cause scabby-type lesions.

    I once knew a horse who had blister-type things around his mouth, that wouldn't go away, and the vet told the owner to check for foxtail, and sure-enough there was foxtail in the hay.

    Just something to think about if it's only around her mouth/ face.

  4. My B&W gelding gets exactly the same thing when the grass is wet in the mornings - dew poisoning is what I've heard it called. I don't recall any photosensitivity except around the lips, though.

    Dixie makes GREAT faces when being scratched. What a cutie!

  5. I hear what yall are saying about clover, but there's just no clover in my hay. I hadn't noticed any before, and I just went and ripped an entire flake apart (made a truly epic mess) and found -one- trifoil clover-ish leaf. And one maybe-foxtail thing, so maybe that's it - but foxtail doesn't explain her crusty eye.

    Clover is definitely a more usual allergen/irritant, but alfalfa is also a legume and also (more rarely) causes irritation.

  6. Poor Dixie! I hope she's not going down Paj's allergy road - he's allergic to alfalfa and everything else a horse likes. It's a pain.
    The goats are adorable, and you can tell that Cersei knows he's being cute.

    I want to thank you for your thoughtful comment on Clifford. You got it exactly right - he's left a Clifford sized hole in our hearts.

  7. My mare Bonnie get's the exact same thing with Alfalfa!! Hope it clears up soon.

  8. I can't help with a diagnosis but I hope poor Dixie is feeling better soon! She looks so itchy!!

    Love the videos! :)

  9. Yet something new I learned...Alfalfa photosensitivity.

    Well, keep us posted as to what the vet thinks, I always like learning new stuff. Should I ever encounter something similar in the future, it's helpful to already have the heads up on possible causes.

  10. Poor girl! I used to have a bay and white paint mare (also named Dixie) and she used to get sunburned on her white nose.
    I have had the horses get some type of photosensitivity to something in our pasture (no alfalfa there) and they lost patches of hair on their muzzles. Hope you figure it out! Hate to see a girl so itchy.

  11. What's she chewing on when she's out in the pasture ? Is there anything green and growing right now ? If I had to guess, I'd start there especially if she's not shown this sort of thing before now with her hay.

  12. Poor baby! Do you know if your hay is treated with anything when it's baled? There is a chemical some hay farmers around here spray on just-cut hay to help preserve it better during the drying process. Some horses are extremely sensitive to that chemical (cant' remember what it's called!) and can't eat hay with any of it on it.

    Since she was already eating alfalfa, I'd have to wonder if it's something else that's affecting her...maybe a bit of hay that had more than typical chemical on it?

  13. Jason - hahahaha, my "pasture" is exactly like what you see in the background of the pictures. Dormant sagebrush, debarked thorn bushes, and sand. In the fall she did spend a lot of time nosing around eating the tiny individual grass stalks that came up, but they're all dead or dormant now. The goats still nibble on the thorn bushes, but nobody is even trying to eat the sagebrush.

    Jenn - I've bought that treated hay before!! I thought it looked unnaturally green but I picked up a bale from the local hay yard anyway. She would not touch it. if I threw a flake in her pen, she'd nose at it all day and slowly eat one strand at a time with great reluctance. That's how I ended up using this hay farmer - I got a couple test bales then got 3 tons when she ate the test bales.

    Yesterday it was 57 and beautiful. Today I woke up right as it started to snow. WTF?! There's less than an inch, but the wind is whipping it around in your eyes and all the cracks in your clothing. Maybe it will melt before the vet comes? Having livestock is so much fun.

  14. what i've learned about skin care is that there is nothing wrong with using petrolatum on our skin. this is the main ingredient of aquaphor (and vaseline) which really helps with dry skin and eczema, IME.

    it forms a barrier like an extra layer of skin that helps out when your skin is under stress.



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