The purposes of skin and hair are many and equally important. They keep everything inside in and everything outside out. It grows hair and adds fat to keep us warm and it sweats to keep us cool. It senses movement and helps to feel the blades of grass that are succulent. It shakes off flies and screams for attention when it is damaged. It remains flexible around joints but firm over muscles and the face.
Skin is cleaver in that it can take care of itself. When cut it heals through an amazing and precise process. But when humans and other factors mess with this process healing becomes troubled in a process almost unique to horses. It also can become allergic to fly bites and a bed of food and a breeding site for flies when damaged. Viruses can affect the integrity of skin and may be the cause of several skin neoplasia types (equine sarcoid, aural plaques, warts). Cancer can strike which can be troublesome (melanoma) or life threatening (squamous cell carcinoma). It can react with foods that cause sensitivity to light (photosensitization). It can itch to the point of damage. It can also be rubbed to ecstasy (mutual grooming) or torn from fighting or self inflicted wounding (self mutilation).
The skin is normally covered with good bacteria and excreted oils that keep the skin healthy. Daily washing with soaps and detergents removes these protective features. And why wash a horse when they go right out and roll in the dirt? Soaps should be limited and cleaning done with only water and a scrubber. I personally have not used soap on my body and hair for years and no one has complained of any body odor and my skin is very healthy. There is a lot of research on this in humans but again, none in horses.
There are a lot of topics with images here because the skin and hair are visible. I’ll give brief explanations for each but I have found 2 things that seem to help a poor hair coat and skin. The first is to feed protein filled with all the essential amino acids. I have seen improved hair coats in as little as two weeks with the addition of all the amino acids. The second is eliminating all grain, grain byproducts and sugar treats from the diet. More on this under nutrition. You may find that daily baths with soap are no longer needed to keep the horse shining. Saving money AND time is a treat for most horse owners.
This topic covers anything that isn’t considered normal on the skin of the horse and is not categorized into another topic.
Bandaging accomplishes two things: 1) It applies pressure to the area to drive edema out of the limb and 2) keeps dirt from getting a wound if there is a break in the skin.
The cause for the horse’s skin to lose color in patches of hair in one spot or throughout its body is not common and is still without explanation.
Dermatitis In Horses
Fascial Tears In Horses
Surgery topics are items that help the horse owner understand the fundamentals behind wounds and surgical lesions in horses. This particular topic needs some information and the images updated. I am aiming for the end of September. Thank you for your patience.
When body weight is applied to the skin area for a prolonged period of time, the skin actually dies from the pressure placed upon it creating pressure sores.
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Puncture wounds can be invisible and inoculate the area with bacteria. If left untreated the infection can kill your horse. A tetanus vaccination is essential for puncture wounds.
Shoe Boils In Horses
The purpose of an abscess is to move a foreign material that is inside the body to the outside. When this occurs, it is said to be draining and is a natural and end-stage process.
In vet school I learned that a lump is a lump until proven otherwise. Only a biopsy can determine or confirm a diagnosis.
Some horses will react adversely to medications showing a disruption from the normal skin condition. These include bumps, depigmentation, and temporary inflammation.
Scars occur during healing of full thickness skin wounds including surgery. They can range from unseen but felt to hairless, depigmented masses.
Skin rubs occur either acutely from trauma or insidiously through wear against objects such as tack, blankets, or the environment.
Tail rubbing is common in stabled and non-stabled horses and the cause is simple as well as the solution. The frayed hairs at the tail head is evidence although most horses uncontrollably itch their rear ends in front of you.
Traumatic wounds are different from surgical wounds for one major reason. The underlying trauma to the soft tissue complicates healing that is beyond the wound created by a sharp scalpel guided carefully by a surgeon’s hand.
Most skin diseases in horses are ignored and random treatments are applied or the lesion is ignored. Here are a few of these.
Wire wounds are difficult because of the underlying soft tissue damage that wants to slough off before the wound can close.
Warts are virus caused growths on the skin usually on young horses and usually on the lips and muzzle.
This severe disease is often confused with habronemiasis which is also commonly called summer sores. This is a fungus based, highly invasive cancer that can affect a horse anywhere on its body.
Dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin, on the back side of the pastern can become severe in some horses. The usual treatments do not address the cause.
Fungal infections can affect the skin of the horse and is contagious between horses and humans. There is usually an immunosuppression factor involved.
Small, raised scabs on the back of a horse have a bacteria causing the lesion. The treatments recommended usually don’t cover the cause.
Aural plaques affect one or both ears creating a thick white crust inside the ear.