Equine Skin Conditions (part 2)

Ref: TheHorse.com / Vet Pro

Equine skin conditions are often difficult to diagnose and can be frustrating to treat, with causes ranging from fungus to allergens to who-knows-what. Below a range of common equine skin conditions and what you can do in some cases to treat and/or prevent.


Rain scald (dermatophilosis)

Rain scald is a skin disease caused by the opportunistic bacterium Dermatophilus congolesis, which thrives in moist conditions and enters through damaged skin (think bites or chafing).

Skin damage can be caused by prolonged moisture, biting flies, vegetation or underlying itchy skin disease. The organism can survive in skin crusts/scabs for up to 42 months. This organism also causes mud-fever.

Rain scald

Horses usually get it along the top line where rain runs down their backs, their shoulders, hindquarters, faces, and lower legs. It appears as a scabby crust of bumps that causes the hair to mat into raised tufts. Eventually, the scabs peel off and leave patches of bare skin. At minimum, rain scald is uncomfortable for the horse, and at worst, it’s very painful. The best thing you can do to prevent it is keeping your horse in dry living conditions.

Many remedies have been developed for treating dermatophilosis over the years. Some work wonders while others have little benefit at all.

A good generalised regime to use is removing all scabs, applying a topical antibacterial solution like chlorhexidine and povidone iodine (Betadine), or more natural options like diluted Vinegar or a Honey based application and keeping the affected area dry.

Ointments, creams and bandages tend to keep the area wet thus enabling the bacteria to continue to multiply. However, some creams do have antibacterial properties and thus decrease the multiplication of bacteria. Irritant preparations e.g. strong bleach and alcohol, further traumatise the skin and will therefor delay the healing process. Severely affected horses may have to be treated systemically. Rain scald is contagious.




Breaks in the skin lead to bacterial and/or fungal causing scaly patches, hair loss, and inflammation on the legs called scratches (aka grease heel or mud fever). Causes include contact allergies and irritants, infestation with Chorioptes mites (leg mange), and malformations with the lymphatic vessels, etc.

Secondary infections are often worsened by exposure to moisture in mud or pastures. Draft breeds and other horses with feathered legs might be most susceptible. White legs are usually more affected.



Warts are caused by the equine papilloma virus and are often associated with young horses. They can come in clusters or individually, and they’re most commonly found around the muzzle, near the eyes, on ears, genitals, and lower legs.


Warts are contagious and spread via direct contact with horses suffering active breakouts.

The lesions usually last approximately 60 to 100 days before the horse builds a natural immunity and the warts spontaneously disappear. Warts are best left untreated because spontaneous remission almost always occurs.

If your horse is older or has a compromised immune system, however, it could take up to a year for a stubborn wart to go away on its own.

If the warts are inhibiting your horse’s ability to eat or being irritated by tack, you shouldn’t wait for this natural process. You can try to stimulate the immune system, talk to an Animal Homeopath or ask your veterinarian for removal treatment.




A sarcoid is a non-malignant but locally aggressive tumor most often seen on the head, belly, groin, and legs. The most common are verrucas, with a warty look, or fibroblastic, which resembles proud flesh. Bovine papilloma virus (BPV) is probably a causative factor in sarcoids, and a 2010 study of 222 horses at the University Equine Clinic of Bern identified a possible genetic basis for sarcoid development in horses as well.

Sarcoids are not easy to treat, aside from removal.


Sweet itch

Sweet itch, aka Queensland itch or summer eczema, is a reaction to salivary antigens from the bites of Culicoides gnats. Small, itchy papules form on the skin. The horse’s mane and tail head are especially susceptible, and hair loss is often caused by rubbing the affected sites is common. Scabbing and ulceration can result from this self-mutilation.


Homeopathy can help support skin health in some of the above cases.

If you would like to know more about how Homeopathy could support your animal, if suffering physical or mental health problems, please feel free to contact me for an obligation free 15 minute chat.


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The information contained in this website is not intended to replace guidance from your veterinarian. Bowen Therapy and Homeopathy are complementary to veterinary treatment and the general care of the animal.