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Common Skin Conditions In Horses

Lumps, bumps, scruffy patches and hair loss are all common and its likely that you have seen something like that on your horse before. But what is the underlying cause? Discussed in this article are some of the common skin conditions that can affect horses and how they are treated. 


Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes a round (or ring-like) shaped lesion on the skin. Each ringworm forms a hairless circle, often scabby or crusty with raised edges. It is highly contagious and will quickly spread between horses that are in direct contact or sharing brushes, tack or rugs. Ringworm can also spread to humans therefore when dealing with ringworm care should be taken and gloves should be worn. To treat ringworm an anti-fungal wash, such as F10 SC Veterinary Disinfectant, is required. As it is highly contagious the infected horse should be separated and ensure that no sharing of tack occurs. Tack should also be washed and sun dried to prevent further spread. 

Rain Scald

Rain scald, also referred to as rain rot or mud fever, is caused by a bacteria due to the horses coat being wet or damp without drying out completely during hot humid weather. The bacteria causes a yellow-greenish pussy discharge on the skin. This then results in matted hair and hair loss that comes out in tuffs. Treatment of rain scald typically involves washing the horse with an anti-bacterial shampoo that contains iodine or chlorhexidine such as Quit-Itch Lotion

Aural Plaques

Aural plaques is a skin condition that effects the inside of the horses ear. It results in white, crusty plaque which is usually raised and rough. The skin underneath often becomes thickened and red. Although the cause is not known for sure it is believed to be caused by the papilloma virus and spread by biting flies. Aural plaque is difficult to treat and is often done with no result. Speak to your veterinarian with regards to the best treatment option. Keeping your horse from being bitten by flies by using rugs that cover the ears and/or fly repellent is advisable. 

Insect Hypersensitivity

Some horses can react to the saliva in an insects bite causing an allergic reaction. This includes conditions known as Queensland Itch or Sweet Itch. This can cause itchy lumps or welts sometimes resulting in hives. When bitten by insects these horses that are hypersensitive to the bite. They will suffer from extreme itching causing the horse to scratch excessively resulting in hair loss and/or skin trauma. Treatment should first involve repelling and stopping the insects from biting by using a fly & insect repellent and by keeping the horse rugged. Corticosteroids are often required in initial stages to stop the itch scratch cycle. 

Skin Care Tips

Some tips for keeping your horses skin and coat healthy and to help avoid some of these skin conditions include; 

  • Rugging and Flyveils – keeping the horse rugged will help protect them from insects and sun damage 
  • Insect Repellents – applying insect and fly repellents, regularly as directed will keep those nuisance and biting insects from causing damage.  
  • Parasite control – worming your horse is important to prevent them from becoming itchy, particularly rubbing their tails, due to worms.
  • Grooming – regular brushing will help remove dirt, sweat and debris from the coat. It also stimulates natural oil production in the coat.
  • Supplements – there are a number of supplements available to help improve coat and skin health. Those containing Omega Oils can help reduce inflammation in the body and support immune health. We like Natural Animal Solutions Omega 3, 6 & 9 for Dogs/Horses.

Originally published in myPET Magazine Spring/Summer 2019-2020.

Read all issues of myPET Magazine online here.

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