Coat problems in horses: causes and therapy

Coat problems in horses can have many causes. Photo:

Coat problems in horses are one of the unpleasant things that horse owners have to deal with from time to time. They can have different causes and for example by a ill-fitting and chafing gear or poor posture develop.

However, they are more common parasites, bacteria or fungi the culprits of these problems. These affect the horse’s skin and sometimes pose a health risk. Often, coat problems such as bald spots, a dull, dull coat or scaly skin indicate one of the following skin diseases in horses. The good news: with a suitable one Barn cleaning and hygiene as well as good cleaning and care much of this can be prevented.

functions of the fur

The coat has many different and important tasks in horses. It protects the animal from environmental influences such as UV radiation, cold or insects and serves to transmit stimuli. At the same time, it is a reflection of the horse’s health: a healthy horse has a smooth and shiny coat.

On the other hand, dull and curly fur as well as bald or chafed spots indicate diseases. But be careful: Sticky, dirt-encrusted or dusty fur does not always have to be cleaned Illness indicate, but can also indicate the posture of the horse be due.

Typical skin diseases in horses


Eczema in horses are skin diseases that are caused by Itching, chafing, and bald or sore patches to express. The most common eczema is sweet itch, which is caused by an allergic reaction to mosquitoes.

Less often come so-called rain eczema in horses. This is a disease of bacterial origin, in which the bacteria enter through small cracks in the skin softened by moisture. Rain eczema can be contagious, but there is usually not much risk of infection in healthy horses. Summer eczema can be treated with zinc ointment or eczema blankets, among other things. Appropriate mosquito repellent is also useful. It is also advisable to feed affected horses a little less energy.

For a horse with rain eczema, it is important that enough air gets to the wound and that the animal is in a dry environment. Also plays hygiene during treatment an essential role. This includes, for example, wearing disposable gloves when in contact with the animal and disinfecting cleaning supplies.


Mud fever is a widespread, contagious skin disease in horses. she will caused by bacteria and affects mainly the fetlock area of ​​the animals. Mauke can also spread to the entire leg in horses.

If the bedding is not changed often enough, it is often damp for longer, especially in the colder months of the year ammoniacal lye, which can attack the horse’s skin and encourage the growth of bacteria and the risk of parasitic infestation. If the horse’s immune system is also weakened, mallenders can also occur under dry conditions.

Typical symptoms include: sores in the ankle area, itching, blistering or weeping eczema. Reddened skin on the ankles can often be seen in the early stages. If mud fever is not treated, it can become chronic. In any case, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian.

In order to counteract mallenders in horses, it is particularly important to dry and clean keeping conditions to care. It is also helpful to keep the ankle area as dry as possible and to muck out the box several times a day to keep the area clean and dry.


One of the most common skin diseases in horses is hives (also called hives or urticaria). This usually creates a Rash in the form of wheals as an allergic defense reaction of the body. Certain stimuli such as insect bites, mold spores, chemicals or other substances usually trigger this hives in horses.

Normally, hives do not develop into a serious illness, but rather disappears by itself. However, if the wheals persist over a longer period of time, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian.

The wheals on the horse’s skin are circular and raised and, above all, can be seen on the neck, shoulders and chest area Find. The coat of horses with hives is usually intact, but may stand up at the raised welts.

Skin fungus in horses

Skin fungal diseases are highly contagious and can spread from horse to horse very quickly. It is therefore important to identify and treat skin fungi early on. Mostly is a weakened immune system the cause of a fungal disease, since the pathogens can spread more easily in the body. In combination with a warm and humid environment, the mushrooms find ideal conditions.

The reasons for a weakened immune system are varied and range from poor nutrition to stress and worm infestation. Typical symptoms of skin fungus in horses are round, bald and greyish areas, scaly skin, itching, small pustules and swellings as well as purulent or inflamed areas (in the case of additional bacterial infection).

fungal diseases can be very stubborn in horses and should always be examined and treated by a veterinarian.

parasites in horses

Skin diseases associated with coat problems in horses can also be caused by Parasites such as lice, mites or biting lice to be triggered. These suck blood or feed on other body substances and thus weaken the immune system, cause inflammation and allergic reactions and can cause diseases.

In a horse with a parasite infestation, the first symptoms often only appear after days or even weeks. So can about white nits and brownish hair lice in the fur to be recognizable. Other symptoms of a horse with parasites include severe itching, restlessness in the horse, shedding and skin sores.

Equine Cushing’s Syndrome

The so-called Cushing’s syndrome in horses is a hormonal disease that results in unusually long, curly coats and problems changing the coat. Above all older horses can be affected by Cushing’s syndrome. Cushing’s disease cannot be treated causally, but the disease can usually be controlled well with medication.

Prevent skin diseases and coat problems in horses

In order to prevent certain skin diseases and coat problems in horses, it is important that Grooming coat regularly and properly. This not only makes the fur smooth and shiny and gives the animal a healthy appearance, but it can also be checked for parasites, wounds and bald or open spots at the same time. The use of EM technology can also be helpful in care.

However, too much care can have a negative effect on the coat and skin. Since many shampoos contain washing-active substances, the fat content of the coat and skin is changed. However, the fat content helps protect the animal from cold, moisture and other environmental influences. Too frequent use of fat-dissolving shampoos can therefore impair the natural protective function of the horse’s skin.

Additional information

Author: Henrik Kreimeyer
Veterinary Quality Assurance: Pascale Huber, veterinarian
Date of last update:
November 2022

Gehlen, H. Niedermaier, G.: Skin diseases in horses Part 1: General diagnostics. Practical veterinarian. Schluetersche, Hanover 2009. (Retrieved: November 2022)
Bergmann-Schlovien, C.: Naturally healthy – horse, rider and dog. FN Verlag, Warendorf 2011
Fritz, C. Maleh, S.: Civilization diseases of the horse. Thieme, Stuttgart 2016
Van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan, MS Knottenbelt, DC: Skin diseases in horses. Vet practice special. Schluetersche, Hanover 2009

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