Horse skin problems can be frustrating

Skin problems in horses have various ethiologies — bacterial, viral, fungal, environmental or autoimmune. Most are easily treated, but here are some of the most common.

Ringworm: A fungal skin condition, it commonly affects young and older horses, usually in winter. Signs include erect hairs and patches of bald skin. Sometimes it can be generalised, with skin changes all over the body. Ringworm is very contagious. It is transmitted from one horse to another and also through tack, grooming equipment, clothing, etc. Although uncommon, it can be transmitted to humans. It is treated with antifungal agents. If you suspect your horse has ringworm, isolate it and call your vet.

If the problem is getting out of hand, call your vet.

Sweet itch: Very frustrating, it is a hypersensitivity to insect bites so signs are usually seen between April and October. Horses are very itchy and can get secondary infections caused by scratching. Prevention is key. Horses should be kept indoors during peak insect activity time. When turned out, they should have special “clothing”, and use of insect repellents is recommended. In some cases, use of corticosteroids is necessary. If the problem is getting out of hand, call your vet.

Sarcoids: The most common skin tumours. There are several types, which require different approaches. They can be in different sizes, shapes and locations. The most problematic affect eyelids, sheath or girth. Some can be left, others require invasive action. There are various treatments — surgery, cytostatic topical medication, cryotherapy, radiation, etc. Every lump should be checked by your vet.

Mange: This parasitic disease commonly affects limbs. The horse develops pruritus and stamps, bites himself and rubs. You can see hair loss. It can be easily passed to other horses. Treatment requires antiparasitic medication. Some horses have a predisposition for this and will need seasonal preventive medication.

Mud Fever: Very frustrating, parasites, bacteria, vasculitis and contact irritants can all contribute. Most often, white skin legs are affected. Some breeds are predisposed to it, such as Shire and Clydesdale. Treatment includes medication, antibiotics, antiparasitic injections and, in rare cases, corticosteroids. Keeping limbs clean and dry is critical. If your horse has this for over two weeks, contact your vet.

By Dominika Skawińska, Vet.