Rocky Valley Veterinary Service

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Unraveling the Mystery: Understanding and Addressing Common Horse Skin Problems

The skin, being the largest organ of a horse’s body, serves as a protective barrier against the external environment. However, like any living organism, horses can be prone to various skin issues. In this blog, we embark on a journey to explore common horse skin problems, shedding light on their causes, symptoms, and effective strategies for prevention and treatment.

Rain Rot

Causes: Rain rot, or Dermatophilosis, is a bacterial infection often triggered by prolonged exposure to wet conditions.

Symptoms: Crusty scabs, matting of the coat, and sensitivity to touch characterize rain rot.

Prevention and Treatment: Ensure horses have access to dry shelter during wet weather. Regular grooming and the use of antibacterial shampoos or topical treatments can help manage and prevent rain rot.

Sweet Itch (Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis)

Causes: An allergic reaction to the bites of Culicoides midges, commonly known as “no-see-ums” or “sweet itch” flies.

Symptoms: Intense itching, hair loss, and skin lesions, particularly along the mane, tail, and midline.

Prevention and Treatment: Use fly sheets, fly masks, and apply insect repellents. Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be prescribed for severe cases.


Causes: A fungal infection caused by Microsporum and Trichophyton species.

Symptoms: Circular, scaly lesions with hair loss, often forming a distinctive ring pattern.

Prevention and Treatment: Isolate affected horses, disinfect grooming tools and equipment, and maintain a clean environment. Antifungal medications are typically prescribed.

Allergic Reactions

Causes: Horses can be allergic to various substances, including certain foods, medications, or environmental factors.

Symptoms: Itchy skin, hives, swelling, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing.

Prevention and Treatment: Identify and eliminate allergens whenever possible. Antihistamines or corticosteroids may be prescribed to manage allergic reactions.


Causes: A bacterial or fungal infection affecting the skin around the pasterns.

Symptoms: Redness, swelling, and scabby or crusty lesions around the pasterns.

Prevention and Treatment: Keep pasterns clean and dry. Topical antibiotics or antifungal treatments may be necessary. In severe cases, systemic medications may be prescribed.
Understanding the common horse skin problems they may face is pivotal for their overall well-being. Regular grooming, maintaining a clean-living environment, and promptly addressing any signs of skin issues through veterinary consultation are key components of effective skin care. By being vigilant and proactive, horse owners can ensure that their equine companions enjoy healthy, radiant skin and a comfortable, itch-free life.