Common Skin Conditions to Watch Out For


BY Helen Chimbos

A horse’s skin health plays a crucial role in their overall well being. Here are a few common skin conditions to keep an eye out for!

Rain Rot 

Cause: Rain rot is caused by a bacteria known as Dermatophilus Congolensis. The bacteria can live in your horse’s skin without signs, but thrives in moist environments. It can cause an active infection in your horse’s skin, leading to pain and discomfort.

Appearance: It shows as crusty scabs on the horse’s coat that leads to raised bumps. Typically, it will peel off and leave small bare spots. 

Treatment: In order for your horse to heal properly, it is important to keep your horse out of rain and in dryer conditions. There are a few antimicrobial shampoos that you can use daily until the infection starts to clear up. 

Pastern Dermatitis (Scratches)

Cause: Often occurs on the pastern or heel bulbs due to excessive moisture or damp conditions. 

Appearance: Scratches appear as flaky, red, inflamed skin. The hair in the area can mat, and the skin can become flaky and dry. 

Treatment: Mild cases can be treated by washing the affected area, and keeping it dry. Antibiotic or antifungal ointments may also be used on the affected area. 

Primary Seborrhea

Cause: Primary Seborrhea involves overproduction of sebum (oil) in your horse’s skin. Some breeds are predisposed, but other factors may play a role, such as humidity and lack of grooming.

Appearance: It shows up as excessive oil production on the skin, hair loss, containing bald spots, or itchy and red inflamed skin.

Treatment: Most common treatments include topical treatments, such as medicated shampoos and conditioner, regular grooming, and environmental management. Diet and nutrition can help contribute to the overall skin health. 


Cause: Ringworm is surprisingly not caused by a worm, as the name suggests. It is actually caused by a fungus, and can be spread through shared tack and grooming supplies.

Appearance: Ringworm appears as a circular pattern of hair loss that is sometimes red or looks to be a rash.

Treatment: The most common treatment is washing the area with antifungal shampoos, but your vet may offer other alternatives depending upon the case. 

Aural Plaques 

Cause: Aural plaques is caused by a papillomavirus, which is typically due to black fly bites. 

Appearance: Aural Plaques are small raised bumps that can be found in your horse’s inner ear. They are typically a grayish white color, with a rough, bumpy appearance.

Treatment: These bumps usually do not cause much pain or discomfort in horses. The most common treatment is applying cream or ointments containing corticosteroids or anti-inflammatory agents. 


Cause: Mange comes from infestation of parasitic mites. It is most commonly found in winter coats, due to the parasites burrowing in and feeding on the debris of the surface of the skin.

Appearance: It can be hard to identify, but you may notice your horse is uncomfortable and itching, due to mites. Mange can cause hair loss and dry skin with an irritated appearance.

Treatment: Your vet will recommend the most appropriate treatment, however the most commonly used is a wormer. 

Certain skin conditions can be more popular depending on environmental factors and the time of year. Hopefully this will help you identify any skin conditions your horse may have. As always, make sure you reach out to your vet to find the best treatment for your horse!