How to Identify Horse Skin Diseases and Conditions

It's almost inevitable that your horse will have some sort of skin problem during its lifetime. It's not unusual to bring a horse in to find it covered in bumps or sensitive spots. Often, small bumps that look like pasture injuries develop into larger problems caused by bugs, allergies, or viruses. All sorts of things can cause skin problems, from too much rain or bathing to insect or grooming sprays, not to mention pollen and other environmental irritants.

  • 01 of 08

    Rain Scald or Rain Rot

    Horses in heavy rain

    Sini Merikallio / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

    Sometimes a run of damp, rainy weather is all it takes for a horse to develop rain rot or rain scald. Yes, you can provide shelter, but horses can be like little kids and not know when to come in out of the rain. Often, it's the elderly, or under-condition horses that are affected, but not always.

  • 02 of 08


    Light micrograph of the ringworm fungus

    CNRI / SPL / Getty Images

    Ringworm isn't caused by a worm, but it is something you can share with your horse. This is a skin problem that mainly affects horses in poor condition, but once one horse gets it, it can spread easily.

  • 03 of 08


    Microscopic view of a mange mite.

    AgenAnimPic1444 / Getty Images

    There's no doubt good health goes a long way to prevent many illnesses and diseases, including skin problems. There are a few different types of mange, and they show up on the horse's skin in slightly different ways.

  • 04 of 08


    Diagram of a horse louse

    G. F. Ferris. San Francisco / Pacific Coast Entomological Society, 1951

    Like their human counterpart, lice aren't too fussy about what they snack on, from expensive racehorse to backyard companion. Lice are usually equated with poor living conditions, but that's not always the case. As long as there is a warm body to hitch a ride on, they'll gladly hop aboard.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Allergic Dermatitis

    Fly swatting
    Suzanne Cummings / Getty Images

    Many of us know the agony of seasonal allergies, or perhaps you know what it's like to be allergic to your cat, dog, or even your horse! Horses can have allergies too and the symptoms can range from a few hives that disappear within days to severe allergies requiring veterinarian assistance.

  • 06 of 08

    Grease Heel or Pastern Dermatitis

    Bandaging the pastern

    CasarsaGuru / Getty Images 

    Perhaps the most difficult skin condition to clear up is grease heel, more properly known as pastern dermatitis. Grease heel does have other several common names as well. Because it happens in an area of the skin that is always bending and stretching and exposed to damp and dirt, grease heel can take a long time to heal. Learn the causes of grease heel and how to handle it.

  • 07 of 08


    Equine vitiligo


    While a horse with flashy white markings is undeniably eye-catching, white markings that suddenly appear around eyes and other thin-skinned areas on the horse leave many horse owners worrying. Vitiligo can affect humans, but it's not contagious and you won't get it from your horse.

  • 08 of 08

    Summer Itch or Sweet Itch in Horses

    Mountain ponies doze in the heat

    Corbis / Getty Images

    Sweet itch can be extremely uncomfortable, causing inflammation and hair loss. The horse can even damage its skin trying to relieve the itch. Nothing sweet about that.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.