A horse's skin makes up twelve to twenty-four per cent of it's body weight. It's main functions are protection and thermoregulation. It is influenced by factors on the inside and the outside. It reflects the horse's overall health and it also suffers from a variety of diseases.
There are two main categories of skin disease: infectious and non-infectious. Skin diseases are often seasonal, and we'll cover some of the common summertime problems.
INFECTIOUS These include bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections.
Scratches: A bacterial, fungal and mite combination. This appears as a red and scabby inflammation of the pastern. Sometimes there will be swelling and even lameness from severe infections. Treatment includes a dry environment and applying antibacterial/antifungal agents like chlorhexidine. The pastern needs to be washed, the scabs removed and often wrapped to clear these infections.
Bacterial folliculitis: A common summertime infection. Usually appears as small scabs or crusts that can be pulled off, or hairless areas. This can be found anywhere on the horse's body. Most often it is in areas touched by tack or areas that sweat more. Often will resolve on it's own. Brushing and washing your horse, especially after work, will help prevent it. Iodine-based shampoos or chlorhexidine baths will also help clear the infections.
Ear plaques: Many horses develop white crusty patches on the inside of their ears. Occasionally they can be painful and irritating to the horse, but most of the time are just unsightly. They are caused by gnat irritation that creates inflammation of the skin.
Other infectious skin diseases include lice, mange, and ringworm. These are all more common wintertime problems and will be discussed in the winter newsletter.