While grooming your horse, you may have noticed strange patches on its skin. Could this be something normal, or is it developing a skin disease? If so, which one and how should it be treated? By knowing the symptoms of the most common skin diseases, you'll be able to begin treatment immediately.
It can be tricky to identify a skin disease on a horse as opposed to skin irritation caused by rubbing, scraping or biting. For example, a horse might be bitten by an insect, and it might bite itself or rub the affected area against a post or other stationary object in an attempt to relieve the itch, This can make it appear as though there might be a skin problem when there is really an unrelated cause. To tell the difference, walk your horse out into the sunlight or bring it into a well-lit area of the barn. If the spot that you suspect might be diseased is surrounded by messed-up or broken hair, it is probably itching. If the patch is well defined and the hair is intact, a skin disease is more likely.
While there are many types of skin diseases that can affect horses, two of the most common are rain rot and ringworm. Rain rot can be recognized by its location, since it usually affects the horse's back. You will noticed your horse has developed a rash of small bumps going down its back area which will eventually turn into circle-shaped scabs. The horse's hair will mat over the scabs, and if you try to remove them, the area may start to bleed. Rain rot can also spread down the horse's legs and forward to its neck and backwards to its rump. Ringworm usually affects very young or very old horses, since they are the most vulnerable to diseases. The horse will lose hair in a pattern of small circles, and you'll notice scabs or flaky skin in the circles. If you don't do anything to stop the ringworm's progress, the circles will get larger over time. The horse will develop scabbing blisters, and it will be vulnerable to developing other skin problems. Horses can get other skin diseases besides rain rot and ringworm, but they are the most likely. Contact your veterinarian for an exact diagnosis.
Rain rot can be treated by giving a horse daily baths with a special iodine shampoo. During the baths, you should remove any scabs. In between treatments, the horse should be kept outside in the sun if the weather is bright and warm. If it's rainy, bring the animal into the barn. If the rain rot is particularly severe, your veterinarian might prescribe antibiotics in addition to the baths. The condition usually improves significantly within a week of treatment. Ringworm is treated by isolating the infected horse, since it is a highly contagious disease. The horse should be bathed every day for a week with miconazole shampoo. These baths should then be continued on a weekly basis until all signs of the ringworm is fully healed. Meanwhile, all saddle blankets and other equipment that was used on the infected horses should be thoroughly cleaned with a bleach and water solution.
Horse skin diseases can be prevented by cleaning the horse's stall regularly and keeping it in sanitary conditions. If you live in an area where biting insects are a problem, spray the horse with fly repellent every day and put on a fly mask when it's out in the pasture. Don't let your horse have contact with unknown equines because they could be carrying ringworm or other diseases. Bath your horse regularly, and groom it on a daily basis. Thoroughly inspect its body during every grooming session. This will allow you to catch any signs of a developing disease early.
Even though the symptoms exhibited by your horse might match common skin diseases, it's always best to consult your veterinarian before beginning treatment. A vet is trained in proper diagnosis and may notice something you have missed. He will be able to make a certain diagnosis and give you proper treatment instructions. By calling the vet, you may catch an unusual skin disease early and stop its progress before it can permanently harm your horse.