Skin Conditions in Horses

Skin problems are not only limited to humans. Animals such as horses can have them too. If left unchecked, it can greatly compromise their quality of life. Here are some examples of horse skin problems you must watch out for.

 Pastern Dermatitis

 Equine Pastern Dermatitis is a problematic skin diseases found in horses. The cause for this disease is still unknown, but it's said that legs that are dirty and wet are more prone to developing EPD. Hair on the legs is a risk factor because it retains both moisture and dirt. Scabs and skin inflammation on the feet are the early signs of this disease.

 Skin plaques are present at the more advanced stages, and can be so severe that it can render a horse lame. Direct topical antibacterial treatment and keeping the affected area dry are the treatments of choice for this condition. To prevent EPD, horses' feet must be kept clean and dry.

 Mud Fever

 Mud fever is a bacterial skin disease that commonly affects the feet of horses. It's caused by the bacterium Dermatophilus congolensis. This condition is prevalent during the muddy and wet conditions of the rainy season. The bacteria can lay dormant on the skin until the skin gets wounded. The bacteria then actively multiply on the wound which causes the wound to be infected.

 Treatment of mud fever includes removal of scabs, introduction of antibacterial agents, and covering the injured area. Ways to prevent mud fever include treating open wounds immediately and proper drying of the skin after cleaning, especially at the feet.

 Rain Rot

 Rain rot, also known as rain scabs, is a skin infection that's common during warm, humid, and wet conditions. It causes the development of scabs with associated hair loss. Skin parasites increase the risk of horses developing this disease. Smaller lesions tend to heal on their own, but larger ones require cleaning with antimicrobial shampoos. More severe cases may require local antibiotic treatment. The best way to prevent this condition is to improve sanitation and keep the skin dry.


 Sores are a relatively common skin problem found in horses. Commonly found on the skin, but may also be found in mucosal linings, sores may be caused by a wide range of possible agents. The lesions can vary in size and depth, and may feature inflammation, discharge, and bleeding.

 The definitive treatment for sores depends on what caused it. You may need the help of your vet to determine the cause and extent of injury. However, general care for this skin disease includes removal of any discharge, disinfection, and management of itching and inflammation. Proper skin hygiene is still the best way to prevent sores of any kind.


 Ringworm is a fungal infection that can affect any part of a horse’s skin. It's characterized by whitish/grayish skin lesions that are slightly raised and with slight swelling below. If left unchecked, they can cause itching that may lead to wounds and infections.

 Antifungal creams and powders are used for treating ringworm, and the treatment usually lasts from 1-4 weeks. To prevent the spread of this condition, damp areas of the skin must be dried, and infected horses must be isolated during treatment. While it usually doesn't cause serious complications, ringworm must be treated immediately as it's highly contagious.


 Mange is a skin condition caused by parasitic mites that grow on any part of a horse’s skin. Mites bite into the horse’s skin, causing wounds that are itchy. The itching can further worsen the wounds, which can cause significant discomfort and disability to the horse.

 All horses may get mange, but the young, old, and diseased are most prone. The treatment plan for mange is to eliminate the mites and to properly treat the wounds caused by their bites. Preventive measures include keeping your horses healthy, keeping their surroundings clean, and keeping items such as tack and brushes clean and disinfected.

 Sweet Itch

 Sweet itch is caused by an allergic reaction to parasitic bites, most commonly by midges. The allergy caused by the infestation causes itching, which can either open new wounds on the skin, or worsen wounds that are already present. Symptoms may vary depending on the severity; itching, bleeding, hair loss, and open wounds may be present in the affected area.

 Treatment for this condition has 3 steps: control the itching and swelling using corticosteroids, preventing skin infections on the affected area, and elimination of parasites that causes sweet itch. Prevention is all about controlling parasite infestation.

 Summer Sores

 Summer sores is an uncommon yet dangerous skin disease of horses. This is caused by the larvae of stomach worms (Habronema and Draschia). Larvae stay on the horse’s wound, causing inflammation and itching. Eventually, these wounds worsen, increasing in size and developing pus and granulation tissue.

 If you suspect your horse has summer sores, have him/her checked first as the lesions resemble other diseases such as skin cancer. The treatment of choice is a combination of anti-inflammatory agents and antibiotics. Surgery may be necessary to remove dead/infected tissue. The best way to prevent summer sores is a combination of deworming and improved sanitation.