10: Protecting the Horse’s Skin

Action Point: Learn about the most common skin conditions in horses, how to prevent, identify, and treat them (in consultation with a veterinarian).

Rationale: Skin conditions, although not usually fatal, can cause a great deal of discomfort and affect the quality of life and performance abilities of a horse. They may also be an indication of disease, which may be contagious, and in some cases, zoonotic, that is, transmissible from horse to human. Common causes of skin irritation in horses are allergens, environmental factors/exposure, external parasites, and in some cases, management practices.

Common skin conditions

  • Hives (urticaria) – may be acute or chronic depending on the cause
  • Atopic dermatitis – airborne allergens
  • Sweet itch (insect-induced dermatitis) – Culicoides aka “no-see-ums”
  • Pemphigus foiaceus – autoimmune disease
  • Bumps/nodules – insect bites
  • Rain rot/rain scald (dermatophilosis) – bacterial, contagious
  • Mud fever/scratches (pastern dermatitis) – bacterial or fungal
  • Alopecia
  • Photo-sensitivity/sunburn
  • Warts and sarcoids
  • Ringworm (dermatophytosis) – fungal, contagious
  • Mange – mites
  • Lice

Prevention tips

  • Keep horses clean and dry
  • Avoid keeping horses in wet, muddy pastures
  • Parasite control – internal and external
  • Pasture and manure management
  • UV protection
10 Common Skin Conditions

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