Skin issues in horses are one of the most common problems affecting horses. With that being said, it is almost inevitable that your horse will fall prey to skin problems in their lifetime. Since horses are outdoor animals and as they spend most of their time on the lush green grass or in your barn, they are bound to get skin diseases.

Skin Problems in Horses – The Types

Below is a list of the common skin problems in horses. Read on to know about them. Also, it is advisable to visit a vet as soon as you suspect any symptoms because early detection is essential.


Definition – A common malady among horses, Cellulitis is a skin-related condition that creates a sudden swelling in the hind legs and spreads slowly throughout the connective tissues beneath the skin. In some cases, pus-like substance can also be formed which can result in pus discharge seeping out from the surface of the skin.

Caused By – While the exact reason behind such an issue is still unknown, it is to be learned that Cellulitis is caused by the following:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Decreased blood
  • Wounds like scratches and cuts
  • Skin drying up due to long exposure to sand or mud

Symptoms – Common symptoms of Cellulitis include:

  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Inflammation in the leg(s)
  • Lethargic
  • Pain and swellings
  • Sloughing of the skin tissue


Definition – Bumps or tiny raised wheals on the skin that are formed anywhere on the body are known as hives. They can be very itchy, and can possibly rupture which can lead to further problems. Such a skin condition in horses is known as Urticaria, and while they are not really life-threatening, they can be a serious cause for concern.

Caused By – This type of issue is caused due to the following reasons:

  • Cold
  • Excess heat
  • Excessive exertion
  • Exposure to excess sunlight
  • Stress

Symptoms – Hives exhibit the below-mentioned symptoms:

  • Tiny bumps on the skin
  • Appetite loss
  • Depression
  • Decrease in performance
  • Fever
  • Lips swollen
  • Restlessness


Definition – A common condition known as mange endures on the outer surface of the skin and feeds on skin debris. Such a parasitic disorder tends to affect horses during the colder months and spreads throughout the horse’s body. Mange can be contagious and hence if you have multiple horses with just one of them affected with mange, it is best to treat them all.

Caused By – The following are reasons behind mange in horses:

  • Chorioptes bovis
  • Demodex equi
  • Psoroptes ovis
  • Pyemotes tritici
  • Sarcoptes scabiei var equi

Symptoms – Mange in horses can depict symptoms such as:

  • Feet stamping
  • Flaky scales
  • Itching
  • Leg flexing
  • Rubbing against things
  • Skin irritation
  • Sores and scabs
  • Swollen legs

Rain Rot

Definition – Also known as rain scald or Dermatophilosis, this type of skin disease occurs when a portion of the skin remains wet for long periods of time. Leaving it unattended for days can lead to skin and hair getting rough, causing further damage to the skin.

Caused By – Such a disease is caused by:

  • Bacterial organism is known as Dermatophiluscongolensis
  • Warm temperatures
  • High humidity
  • Wet Environments

Symptoms – Rain rot has the following symptoms:

  • Crusted skin
  • Matted hair
  • Painful on touching
  • Hair and skin peeling/coming off easily
  • Standing hair
  • Warm skin

Ringworm Infection

Definition – Also known as Dermatophytosis, ringworm infection largely affects horses living in hot and humid climates but the possibility of it occurring in equines in colder and dryer climates cannot be ruled out. Ringworms can affect horses of any age and anywhere in the body. It is caused by a fungus and not by worms as many presumed it to be.

Caused By – This type of skin problem is caused by the following:

  • A fungus is known as Dermatophyte
  • Transmitted from one horse to another

Symptoms – Ringworm infection lets out symptoms like:

  • Damaged skin
  • Bald patches
  • Dry and scaly skin
  • Ring-shaped lesions (not necessarily in that shape)

Skin Tumors

Definition – Skin tumors is another common skin problem in horses. The main types of tumors affecting horses are sarcoids, melanomas, and squamous cell carcinoma. These lump or bump-like substance are considered to be cancerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Caused By – Tumors in the skin are caused by:

  • Age
  • Sarcoids
  • Melanomas
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

Symptoms – Tumors are highly dangerous and detecting the symptoms early is pivotal. Symptoms include:

  • Flat circular tumors
  • Black-colored lumps or bumps
  • Fleshy bumps
  • Difficulty in urinating
  • Raised masses
  • Solid nodules


Definition – It is obvious, keeping a horse for too long out in the open can lead to sunburn. The burning rays of the sun can hamper the skin causing numerous issues ranging from minor issues like skin damage to more fatal ones like skin cancer.

Caused By – The reasons why sunburns occur are:

  • Too much exposure to the rays of the sun
  • Overexposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer
  • Excessive exposure to the sun can lead to skin damage

Symptoms – Sunburns being a highly common problem in horses emit the following symptoms:

  • Blisters
  • Difficult saddling
  • Peeling
  • Skin redness
  • Skin turning pink
  • Skin crack
  • Skin inflammation
  • Tuft of hair loss in patches

The list of skin issues in horses can go on and on but the ones mentioned above are the more common ones. While skin diseases are not highly fatal (in most cases), it is imperative to detect the condition as soon as possible to avoid it turning into a serious and more problematic issue. Furthermore, make sure to consult a vet in order to commence the treatment process.

As Toni Robinson once said, “Horses change lives. They give our young people confidence and self-esteem. They provide peace and tranquility to troubled souls. They give us hope!” Thus, taking care of our horses is not a necessity but a priority.

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