Monitoring a horse’s skin health is highly important for owners and trainers. Given how closely a horse’s outward appearance and health is related to its physical well-being, managing skin issues is a top priority—one that takes on added urgency in summer.
While the season brings warm weather and sun for animals to enjoy, summer can also prove detrimental to a horse’s skin. Much as humans may need to watch out for sunburn, horses are vulnerable to a number of skin disorders and conditions that come with summer. Whether it’s an inflamed hindquarter, a balding spot, dandruff or mange, each situation requires the attention of trainers or owners. The first step to providing relief or therapy is knowing what conditions are most common in summer.
Here are summer skin issues to watch for:
Bug bites and sweet itch
Insects are most active and annoying during the summer months. This can lead to a host of issues for horses, who spend much of their summer days in the open air amid pesky flies, mosquitoes, gnats and no-see-ums. Bugs can also pose problems for indoor spaces, like barns and stables, which makes them an ever-present threat in summer. Bug bites can produce a range of reactions in horses, especially those who are hypersensitive or allergic to insects.
Some of the negative effects horses may experience from bug bites—and which owners and trainers need to watch for—include:
- Redness and swelling.
- Intense itching and frequent biting.
- Skin damage and secondary infections.
- Hair loss or eczema.
While a number of conditions are associated with bug bites, sweet itch is maybe the most well known. According to Texas A&M University, this allergic reaction to midge and fly bites can inflict serious harm. Not only can such bites cause symptoms like crusts, coat damage or thickened skin, but the incessant itching may drive a horse to further irritate their skin in search of relief.
There are a couple ways to help combat bug bites in summer. Trainers and owners can begin by placing fans in indoor areas to deter bugs from entering and biting. The air flow may keep them at bay, and the cooling effect can also be beneficial. You may also want to think about placing mesh or netting over open spaces to further protect the perimeter. Try to avoid letting horses out during peak insect activity hours, and also consider using insect repellents.
Warm weather isn’t all that summer brings, as rain and storms often make an appearance during the season. Exposure to the wet conditions can cause rain rot, which manifests as skin crusting, matted hair and other dermal deformities in horses. Humidity may also be an aggravating factor, as high moisture levels in the air can affect the manes of horses.
Rain rot is a bacterial infection that can be identified by damp scabbing, likely to be found on the shoulders or hindquarters. When the scabbing falls off or is torn off by scratching or biting, bare patches of skin will be left, which can lead to spotty balding across the horse’s body.
Regular grooming is the best action to take to address rain rot. Cleaning horses after they’ve been in mud, or drying them off and shampooing after being outside in the rain, is important to avoiding rain rot. Be sure to clean any equipment used between horses as well: Rain rot, being a bacterial infection, can spread easily.
Too much of a good thing often ends up bad, which is the case with the sun. Sun bleaching is a phenomenon often observed in darkly colored horses wherein exposure to the sun leads to a fading of their mane or coat. While not necessarily harmful to the horse’s physical health, sun bleaching can be an indicator of other skin issues. For instance, bleaching may occur in areas where sweat pools, which itself could lead to moist conditions that foster rain rot. Aesthetic concerns or otherwise, sun bleaching is an issue any trainer or owner should take seriously. Some steps to take include ensuring a balanced diet, regular washings and monitoring time outside.
There are a number of skin issues that can pose a problem during summer, which makes it hard on trainers and owners. To better understand these dangers and how to address them, talk to the experts at Finish Line. Contact us today.