Monday, March 7, 2011

Yup, alfalfa!

Just got done with the vet - she said it's almost certainly the alfalfa. She's seen it often enough out here. Desitin is fine for lips, which is the other major thing I really wanted to know - what can I put on the scabs to soften them up?

We looked her over really closely and she has one tiny scab on her nostril - another common place, because the hair is so thin - and the scabs on her eye and white lips. Her legs are fine. I'm almost certain she escaped scratches because I don't clip legs - there's no pigment, but she has so much hair on her legs that they're protected from the sun. She did check Dixie's mouth, and there's no sores inside her lips or on her tongue, which further rules out foxtail.

Dixie's face is definitely healing already - the scabs around her eye are smaller, and the innermost corner of her mouth is healed. I am going to get some desitin for the bigger scabs on her lips and hopefully they'll stay soft and fall off without bleeding. And the vet said she's seen horses that ate straight alfalfa for years and were fine, then suddenly got sensitive to it. It just comes and goes, so I don't have to stress if she grabs a bite of alfalfa at a vet check.

I threw her cooler on her while we were waiting for the vet, because she is a filthy white beast. The vet LOL'd when I admitted that I'd only blanketed her so she wouldn't see how gross Dixie is. It's ridiculous, I know! But anyway, when I took the cooler back off and turned Miss Thing out, she pranced away all full of herself. So I waved my arms and she bolted down to her rolling spot, slid to a stop, rolled, leapt up, did a lap around the pasture, slid to a stop, rolled, then got up and cantered snorting around the pasture for five minutes. So cute!

I did a lot of thinking about Dixie's history last night, and last summer was the first time she didn't burn badly all summer. I thought it was just that she finally had some sense and stood with her head in the shade, but it was also the first time she didn't have some kind of legumes in her diet on a regular basis. She had clover in the pasture the first and second summers I owned her, then ate 50% alfalfa the third summer, then last year was the first time I had 100% control over her diet. I thought alfalfa 1) caused stress lines in her hooves and 2) was unnecessary for such an easy keeper, so I started only giving her a couple bites as a treat. Her hooves got smooth and her white lines got tight - and she quit burning so bad.

I think once her scabs heal up, I'll go back to letting her nom on a bit of alfalfa every now and then and just stay very aware of her intake. So:

yes, alfalfa can make your paint horse photosensitive, just like clover
yes, desitin or neosporin or even vaseline is fine for lips
if it's really bad, antihistamines won't work (it's not a histamine allergic reaction) but bute or steroids will reduce the inflammation - but obviously that's a big gun you'll want to save for a bad reaction.

Now you know!


  1. I wonder in lanolin would work for the scabs as well? I had never used it before, but it is basically human udder balm (how else do you describe that, ha!). It is safe to use while nursing and doesn't need to be wiped off before a baby gets to it, so I would assume it is also fine for a horses lips. Just an idea! You can buy it at target in the baby/nursing isle, it comes in a purple box.

  2. Yup, probably would - she also said bag balm, corona ointment, anything that doesn't say "don't use on mucous membranes." Tea tree oil would be bad, for example.

    The good thing about Desitin is that it's 40% zinc oxide, which is also a sunblock - it'll soften the scabs and protect the area from the sun. I don't think there's much alfalfa-stuff left in her system, but it's not bad to have on hand.

  3. Good thing you figured it out before the sun is on us full time! I'm so fortunate that Gabe hasn't shown any sensitivity to the sun and hasn't burned at all, even as a gray. He has really dark skin though, rather than pink, so I imagine that makes a huge difference.

    Poor baby, gets butt balm on her face!

  4. Well, she is a butt-head... ;)

  5. Good detective work. I had no idea alfalfa could photo-sensitize a horse! Glad Dixie is going to be fine.

  6. I swear by Desitine for all kinds of skin booboos. I think it also has vitamins A and D in it, so it's very healing, as well as protective. The only thing negative is that it is oil-based, so it doesn't let the skin breathe as well.
    There is a product out there (hard to find, tho) called "Horse Block 45" (I think) that is a sun block for horses! We resorted to using it once 10 or 12 years ago, when Eddie got into some clover and sun-burned ALL OVER! The poor little guy (yearling) looked PINK over his shoulders! And would winch when you even touched him. Poor baby!
    These days, all the mares wear the long-nose fly masks to protect their noses, and I'll even put a lite sheet on Maddie if it's too blazing out.

  7. We use sunscreen (spf 30+, the same stuff I use on myself) on Hana's white muzzle if she's up in the high country, but sunburn isn't otherwise usually a problem for her. However, Hana isn't allowed clover or alfalfa because it makes her a little Too Energetic (in a bad way)!

    Thank the stars that Fee is a Plain Brown least photosensitivity is *one* problem I don't have to cope with for her!

  8. Good to know!! I've used a lot of Desitin in my day, but on Lilly's "cheeks"... good to know it's safe for her face should she get chapped lips again.

    Feel better, Dixie!

  9. Good info to know.

    I don't feed alfalfa to my easy keepers either, but last year Turk sunburned bad across his shoulders when I brought him out to Colorado. I'm guessing the higher altitude. This year I plan on having a full body fly sheet for him and keeping him in a stall.

    Speedy recovery to Dixie!

  10. Very good to know! Thanks!

  11. I have seen some pretty severe cases of hives from alfalfa. I guess that's one of the reasons I don't feed it. I'm glad you have Dixie's sensitivy figured out so maybe you can both enjoy the summer a little more.

    Too funny you covered her up to hide the dirt. I don't have anyone particularly a dirt monger here but I get so frustrated with tangled manes when people come. If a blanket would cover that up, you can bet I'm be doing it. Sometimes no matter how hard you try you just can't make them look presentable. Horses are so funny. LOL

  12. Glad you got that figured out - what a relief. I can sympathize - we've had our own hay related issues lately (foxtail).

    Thanks for the info!

  13. Well, I got the Desitin and put it on Dixie's sores. She was not intolerably bad about it! Giraffed her head up and slung it around when I tagged her with the ointment, but once she thought about it she decided what I'd done wasn't too bad. I've tried putting sunscreen on her before, and she hates the way it smells and fights it tooth and nail.

    When I put her long-nose fly mask on, she politely waits til I leave then has her caprine minion remove it for her. That was the point where I decided if she wanted to burn her nose, she could go ahead and burn her nose - hates sunscreen AND fly masks? Fine, you can win this battle!

    MiKael - interesting that you've seen it too! The rest of yall - I hope you don't have to deal with this, but if you do get a sunburned horse, think about what he's been eating :)

    C, F, S - yes! I saw your blog about foxtail right before Dixie got sores on her mouth, and foxtail was the first thing I considered! But her sores were just on the white parts of her lips, and didn't extend inside her mouth, so I had to keep thinking.

  14. Welcome to my world. Cortizone creme is great on white noses too.

  15. We don't feed alfalfa at all. If Ritzy even smells it she gets the runs & Hawks no much better. But we've never had a rash from it. It's good old grass hay or nothing!!


Feel free to comment!