Horse Skin Diseases

Information on skin problems, skin diseases in horses, and how to maintain skin health.

learn about skin problems & diseases in horses.

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  1. What are Horse Skin Diseases?
  2. What Causes Horse Skin Diseases?
  3. Diagnosing Horse Skin Diseases
  4. Help for Horse Skin Diseases
  5. More Information on Horse Skin Diseases

What are Horse Skin Diseases?

Horses are often susceptible to skin problems and diseases. The skin in horses, other animals and humans is the largest organ of the body and serves as a protective covering for the muscles and organs. It acts as a sensory organ for temperature, touch, pressure, and pain.

Maintaining your horse’s skin is very important to prevent to skin diseases, infection and break outs. This can be done by feeding him high quality feeds, regular grooming and being aware of skin and coat changes.

There are various equine skin problems and these include:

  • Dematitis
  • Ringworm
  • Rain rot
  • Mange
  • Queensland itch
  • Skin bumps (urticaria)
  • Rain scald
  • Girth itches
  • Greasy heel
  • Cracked heels
  • Warts
  • Dandruff
  • Gear, girth or saddle galls
  • Lice infestation
  • Onchocerciasis
  • Sunburn

What Causes Horse Skin Diseases?

Horse skin problems often occur as a result of allergic reactions to certain ingredients in the diet, some drugs and vaccines as well as insect bites caused by flies, fleas, mites, mosquitoes, bees, or wasps. If the horse ingests toxic substances such as chemicals, fertilizer and pesticides, and certain plants, it can also cause skin disease.

Fungal, bacterial, viral and parasitic infections and burns, frostbite and photosensitization can also have a negative effect on the horse’s skin. Sometimes, an underlying condition such as hormonal disorders (hyperadrenocorticism), congenital and hereditary disorders, tumors may also contribute to the development of a horse's skin problem. If left untreated, skin problems can become quite serious and spread to other areas of the body.

Diagnosing Horse Skin Diseases

The diagnosis of a skin disorder is based on the symptoms, a complete physical examination and a review of the horse’s medical history. Diagnostic tests such as skin samples, scrapings of the affected area or a skin biopsy may be taken to be evaluated under microscope to confirm a positive diagnosis.

The common symptoms and signs of skin diseases include:
  • Itching (pruritis)
  • Lumps and bumps
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Lesions and pustules
  • Ulcerations
  • Scaly, crusty and dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Poor skin and coat appearance


Help for Horse Skin Diseases

Treatment usually depends on the cause of the skin disease. For allergic reactions, your vet will prescribe anti-inflammatories and monitor the horse’s progress carefully. Medications such antibiotics, anti-fungal drugs, topical ointments, warm applications, massage, antiseptic solutions, and medicated soaps may also be prescribed.

In addition, flea, mite and lice repellents in the form of sprays, rubs and dips as well as a good de-worming and vaccination program for the horse may also be recommended . A healthy diet and effective grooming is essential in maintaining the horse’s skin.

More Information on Horse Skin Diseases

Tips to prevent skin diseases in horses

There are number of things that horse owners can do to maintain and support healthy skin in their horses and these include:

  • Feed your horse high quality hay and grains
  • Add omega 3 fatty acid supplements or vegetable oil to your horse’s diet to promote a shinier coat
  • Provide fresh, clean water
  • Groom your horse by brushing him daily
  • Keep your horse’s tail protected by using a tail bag – wash, detangle and braid it once a week
  • Avoid bathing your horse often as its coat will lose its shine and luster
  • Limit exposure to allergens such as certain food ingredients and insect bites
  • Keep horses dry if they are diagnosed with rain rot
  • Provide extra shade for horses with pink skin and use sunscreen on pink noses
  • Rinse a sweaty horse off first before allowing him into the sun – sweating fades the horse’s coat
  • Use flea and tick repellents to protect horses from fleas, ticks and mites
  • De-worm your horse regularly to protect against parasites
  • Make vaccinations are regularly updated to prevent infection and disease


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