Whether you own a horse or care for one
or many, keeping the animal healthy and in tiptop shape is a major concern and
goal. A common problem for many horses is a dull coat and flaky dry skin, often
caused by medical skin conditions such as parasites, scaly and crusty
dermatitis, sweet itch, rain rot, and Onchocerciasis dermatitis. These
conditions can lead to hair loss, flakiness, lumps and bumps, and extreme
There are many elements in caring for your horse’s skin health, both inside and
out. Inside health begins with healthy grain, a forage of greens from grazing,
and supplements of proteins, vitamins and minerals, such as flax seed or fish
oil to provide Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids to promote healthy
On the outside, be vigorous with grooming. Do not over-bathe your horse.
Instead, brush your horse every day. Daily grooming with a brush is imperative
to promote a healthy and shiny coat. Not only does it stimulate the skin oils,
horses love to be pampered.
Parasites can be a problem resulting in skin and coat damage. A horse can be
inflicted with lice, ringworm and Onchocerciasis, a skin condition resulting
from a hair-like worm known as Onchocerca cervicalis. Lice are more common in
winter and spring, and there are several options in treating your horse with
lice. Remedies come in powders and systemic treatments that are pour-on or
injectable. Powders contain fenthion, rotenone, carbaryl and coumaphos, and are
either dusted onto the animal or mixed with water and applied as a paste on
your horse’s skin.
Another treatment option for most insect problems, especially lice, is to
shampoo your horse with a good pest control shampoo. It is also helpful for treating
flakes and scaling due to seborrhea. Bathe your horse three times a day in
ten-day intervals for the best success. When treating your horse, you may also
need to clean out the stable area with some hygienic products so the animal is
not re-infested where it eats and sleeps.
Ringworm is not an insect but a fungus that predominantly affects the neck,
face, hooves and girth area; it results in scaling and hair loss that is very
irritating to the animal. Ringworm is common in horses because it is very contagious.
Fungicides for the treatment of ringworm work well and are also effective for
the treatment of rain rot, common in horses. To help with treatment, be sure to
provide your horse dry bedding and ample sun exposure since moist, dark areas
are ideal for fungal conditions. There are other fungicides in shampoo and topical
form per the advice of your veterinarian in extreme cases.
Onchocerciasis skin disease resulting from the worm known as Onchocerca
cervicalis usually lives in the horse’s neck. As microfilaria die off, it
causes an allergic reaction in the horse and leads to a dermatitis. The
condition can be fatal if spread into the bloodstream. Onchocerciasis is
usually visible with red, itchy skin, crusting, moist shallow sores, scaling
and large patchy hair loss. The disease can also result in a loss of pigmentation.
Sweet itch is the result of hypersensitivity to biting insect saliva. It is a
condition that worsens over time, usually three to four summers. It is accompanied
with dandruff, extreme itch, alopecia and crusting. Lesions usually occur on
the neck, rump, mane and tail. The best option is to stable your horse during
peak insect activity times. Other than that, you can try insect repellents and
summer fly sheets. There are some home remedies you can try such as adding
cider vinegar to the horse’s feed to discourage biting, adding garlic to the
horse’s food to make its sweat have a garlic taste and smell, or braiding some
dryer sheets into the horse’s tail and mane.
Early detection and treatment is the best option for any skin problems
affecting your horse. Sometimes extreme cases will need veterinary intervention
while others may require anti-dermatitis shampoos and topical cortisone
remedies to alleviate skin conditions. To keep your horse’s skin and coat in a
healthy state, try some horse skin care supplements like Grand Meadows Grand
Coat and Manna Pro Simply Flax. The additional vitamins and minerals found in
supplements will help your horse naturally strengthen the health of its skin.