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

Equine Dermatology - Everything You Wanted to Know (and More) About Skin

Diagnosing equine skin disease

Structure of the Skin in Horses

08: Parasite Control

Action Point: Develop and implement an evidence-based parasite control program.

Rationale: Given increased parasite resistance to worming medications (anthelmintics), one should strive to manage parasite loads in as natural and preemptive a manner as possible. After all, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’!

The best place to start is with prudent manure and pasture management, followed by a balance of treatment and surveillance, including routine fecal egg counts. Deworming plans should be specific to each horse in coordination with fecal egg count reduction tests to determine the effectiveness of the anthelmintic administered on the highest shedders in a population. Dosage directions according to horse weight must be followed for best chances at effectiveness and to minimize increasing parasite resistance (i.e. too low of a dose of a particular anthelmintic may increase parasite resistance to that class of drugs).

Effective management of manure is key in preventing heavy parasite loads in horses. Manure should be removed from stalls and small paddocks every day, and from larger paddocks and fields twice per week.  If possible, pasture rotation is recommended to further limit parasite loads.

AAEP Parasite Control Guidelines

Creating a Parasite Control Program

Diagnosteq - Solutions to Worm Control

Integrated Parasite Control: How to Strike a Balance

Pasture Management for Parasite Control

14 Up-to-Date Equine Parasite Control Facts