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Equine Skin Conditions

Skin conditions can be cause a significant amount of discomfort for your horse, thus a veterinary examination should be performed in order to best manage the underlying cause/s. Described below are a few of the many conditions which may cause skin disease in horses.

Skin conditions in horses should be evaluated promptly to allow for the most rapid resolution of the problem. Contact us if you notice any abnormalities of your horse’s skin.


Hives refer to multiple circular raised skin lesions (sometimes with a central dimple) which can affect the head, neck, shoulders, and legs. These lesions are due to an inflammatory response by the body. Hives often appear suddenly, and are typically caused by insect bites, allergies, or sometimes medications. 


Sometimes, mild cases of hives will disappear on their own soon after appearing. If the lesions are more severe and/or do persist, it is certainly worth having your veterinarian examine your horse. Hives may also disappear then recur, if the allergen or causative agent is not eliminated. These ongoing cases may require a thorough investigation in partnership with your veterinarian to determine the best way treatment and prevention options for your horse. 

These small lesions on a horse’s skin are irritated by tack and heat, so it is in your horse’s best interest to take a break from riding it until the hives have gone away.


Examples of horse with hives.

Queensland Itch

Queensland Itch refers to an insect hypersensitivity caused commonly by the Culicoides biting midge. Affected horses and ponies often suffer intense itchiness and hair loss along the upper midline (including mane and tail) at similar times of the year each year.


Lice are more common in horses housed in large groups, and tend to cause itchiness and hair loss over the head, neck, and upper limbs.

Mites (Mange)

A variety of types of mites affecting horses exist. Mites generally cause itchiness and flaky skin of the lower limbs, and are especially common in draught horses or those with significant feathering. Similarly to lice, mites are more common in horses housed together in groups.


Pinworm (Oxyuris equi) infests the gastrointestinal tract of horses, with female pinworms crawling out of the rectum and onto the perineum where they lay eggs and cause intense itchiness of the tail and surrounding skin.

Rain Scald

Rain Scald is caused by a bacteria called Dermatophilosus spp. and is most common following periods of rainfall or high moisture levels, such as sweating. The upper thorax and abdomen is most often affected, with a dry and crusty appearance of lesions.


Ringworm is caused by a fungus, Trichophyton spp. Ringworm is of particular concern due to the potential for humans to become infected by horses. The characteristic lesions associated with Ringworm include multiple circular regions of hair loss. Transmission may occur via grooming equipment and tack, so care should be taken to limit the sharing of gear between horses.


Bacterial infections

Bacterial infections of the skin can occur in horses, often secondarily to other skin conditions. ‘Greasy heel’ is an example of a bacterial infection which affects the lower limbs following mild skin surface trauma.

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Examples of an uncomfortable skin condition. 

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