When confronted with any skin problem it’s important to assess all the risk factors for different conditions.

Specialist equine vet Gemma Tyner, MRCVS, explains how to try to diagnose and treat skin issues.

If your horse gets scabby tufts of hair in sensitive spots such as his face and cannon bones, take note of whether it is a seasonal issue.

Weather changes can bring about sweating and provide environments conducive to bacterial and fungal growth. This may lead to bacterial or fungal dermatitis/skin infections.

Additionally, weather changes can coincide with higher levels of insect activity, which may result in insect bite hypersensitivity.

Of course, horses ridden in the warmer weather wearing boots or bridles, for example, may develop little rubbed areas that predisposes them to inflammation and infection over the damaged areas of skin.

It’s important to ensure that none of your horse’s tack is rubbing. Allergies to ingredients used in tack cleaning products can also lead to areas of dermatitis and skin damage.

To assess your horse’s problem, skin samples can be taken, including hair pluck samples, a skin scrape and skin biopsies.

These samples can be assessed for parasites, relevant fungi (most commonly, dermatophytosis or ringworm) and significant bacterial organisms.


With regards to treatment, it’s best to be guided by your veterinarian as to which to use. There’s a propensity for people to apply creams to anything and everything, but the truth is that only antibiotics address bacteria.

Applying inappropriate amounts of antibiotics here and there can lead to growth of more problematic bacteria that may, in the future, lead to far worse issues.

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