Kemo - A Horse With A Food Allergy To Oats

Kemo is a 30-year-old Paso Fino who has been under the loving care of Angel and Brian Lewis for the last 28 years. Over the past several years, Kemo has been suffering from a serious issue in both eyes. His owner, Angel Lewis, explained that “overnight his eyes would swell up” to the point that Kemo could barely open them. They were somewhat baffled as this was something they had never experienced with Kemo in the previous 26 years.

Lewis tried to find a common denominator that would point to the sudden onsets of swelling that would sometimes last for months. She stated: “It can happen when he’s stalled, but the next episode he’ll be outside.” She felt as if the episodes were completely random.

The Lewis’s tried several remedies of their own to no avail. Around the time of the first episode they had recently changed hay, so they took Kemo off the new hay hoping it would help, but to no avail. They also tried Benadryl without any relief. Angel tells of how her husband Brian “hung in there every day. He would clean Kemo’s eyes out with warm water, then run cold water on them to try and help bring the swelling down.” After 26 years he wasn’t about to give up.

During the 2 plus years Kemo was suffering they had no less than three different vets evaluate with still no solution. Angel was ready to give up, but her husband Brian suggested they try one more vet. Angel agreed and they called Mid-Rivers Equine Centre. Dr. Ellis would be the 4th vet scheduled to evaluate Kemo.

When Dr. Ellis went to visit Kemo he was struggling with a bought of swelling that had lasted six months. Angel sadly recalls Kemo “bumping into fences and gates because he couldn’t see.” To protect him, they confined him to his stall. Angel remembers having to make sounds as she entered his stall so he would know she was there.

Upon evaluating Kemo, Dr. Ellis’s noted that Kemo would “hold (his eyes) so tightly closed, that he inverts his eyelids.” In order to evaluate Kemo’s eyes, Dr. Ellis had to block them. After evaluating the eyes Dr. Ellis reported: “He has what appears to be a straight, deep, neovascularzation on the left eye but the issue appears to be allergic in nature.” He also noted, “I can see a normal cornea and anterior chambers.”

Dr. Ellis suggested Kemo had a serious allergy and recommended having an allergy test performed. The test results came back showing 19 total reacting allergens. There was one reacting allergen that was of interest – Oats. About the time Kemo started suffering from sudden and prolonged eye swelling episodes, the Lewis’s began adding oats to their horse sweet feed. “I never would have thought of cutting out this feed if Dr. Ellis hadn’t suggested it,” said Lewis. “Within three days of removing the oats his eyes were back to normal. It was so nice to see him happy and healthy again.”

Kemo is back to riding or lunging daily. Kemo may be 30 but he still loves a romp on the trails. Angel said you wouldn’t know he was as old as he is, “he still wants to go fast.” She also said Kemo has spoiled her, “he hasn’t been an ounce of trouble” (other than this eye incident) since we got him as a two-year-old. “He is the perfect horse and I thought every other one was going to be like that.”

Twenty-eight years later you can hear the smile in her voice as she now knows that Kemo is special.


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