How to treat skin disorders in horses

Written by laura college
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There are several different causes of skin disorders in horses, some of which can be cured with a mild shampoo or over-the-counter medicine. Parasites, bacteria, fungi, viruses, allergies, exposure to chemical agents and even genetic predispositions can cause skin disorders in horses. The best way to handle such a situation is to identify the cause, if possible, and administer appropriate treatment right away.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Dry stall
  • Cortisone cream
  • Antibacterial or anti-fungal shampoo
  • Fly spray
  • Dewormer
  • Antibiotics
  • Antihistamines and corticosteroids

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    Identify the Cause of Skin Disorders in Horses

  1. 1

    Understand that you shouldn't treat skin disorders in horses unless you are reasonably sure of the cause. For example, you might know that a horse has been exposed to an irritating fungus, but you might not know exactly which fungus.

  2. 2

    Examine the areas where the skin disorder is most prominent. Is it close to an area where tack can rub against the horse's coat? Sores or lesions in the saddle, bridle or girth area could be caused by poorly fitting equipment that is rubbing the skin raw. This is also common on the lower-leg area if the horse wears boots for workouts.

  3. 3

    Look for small bumps or raised areas of the skin. Some skin disorders in horses are caused by insect bites to which the horse may or may not be allergic. Lots of little bumps in the lower quadrant of the body, for example, may indicate ant bites, in which case the stall and paddock should be thoroughly cleaned and eradicated of pests.

  4. 4

    Know that suppurating sores, bleeding lesions, pus-filled nodules and other serious skin disorders require the attention of a veterinarian. Even if you have a good idea of the cause, you can't be absolutely certain, and a veterinarian can recommend the fastest and most effective course of treatment.

    Treating Skin Disorders in Horses

  1. 1

    Administer phenylbutazone (bute) to a horse with skin disorders to reduce inflammation, heat and discomfort. Bute is an NSAID that is relatively safe on all horses, and a prescription can be obtained from your veterinarian for use at your discretion. It is always a good idea to keep a healthy supply on hand.

  2. 2

    Wash the horse with an anti-fungal or antibacterial shampoo. This will clean the skin thoroughly and should be repeated at least once a day until the skin disorder clears up. Make sure you dry the horse thoroughly after each bathing, because many skin disorders thrive on a wet atmosphere.

  3. 3

    House the horse in a dry stall or paddock, reducing exposure to potential irritants. Some skin disorders, such as ringworm, are thought to be benefited by sunlight exposure, but keep outdoor activity to a minimum until the condition clears up.

  4. 4

    Administer antihistamines or corticosteroids if the horse is having a severe allergic reaction. This will reduce inflammation and help rid the body of toxins that are causing the reaction. In most cases, this requires a visit from the veterinarian.

  5. 5

    Provide the horse with antibiotics for skin disorders that are bacteriological in nature. Bacteria can spread from horse to horse and may return even after a successful round of treatment is supplied.

  6. 6

    Remove tumours or growth for biopsies to ensure they aren't neoplastic (cancerous).

Tips and warnings

  • Never attempt to remove a tumour or growth from a horse without a veterinarian consult.

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