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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 itching.

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 skin cells.

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.

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