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Treatment of Skin Disorders in Horses


Karen A. Moriello

, DVM, DACVD, Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Last full review/revision Oct 2019 | Content last modified Nov 2019
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Successful treatment of skin disorders requires identification of the underlying cause. Not surprisingly, many treatments for skin diseases are applied directly to the skin surface. Even though topical treatments may not cure the condition, they are often beneficial in improving the cosmetic appearance or odor of the animal, pending the final diagnosis. Topical skin medications may be the preferred method of treatment for some diseases or beneficial in addition to systemic drugs (medications usually given by mouth or injection and distributed throughout the body). Examples of products applied directly to the skin include antibiotic ointments, corticosteroid preparations, medicated shampoos, and topical insecticides.

Shampoo Therapy

  • Shampoos are commonly used topical treatments. Before applying a medicated shampoo, wash the horse with a cleansing shampoo and rinse well. Medicated shampoos often are not good cleansing agents, do not lather well, or do not work except on a clean hair coat.

  • The medicated shampoo should be applied evenly to the hair coat after being diluted in water. (The shampoo should never be applied directly to the skin.) Diluting the shampoo will help rinse it from the coat and minimize the potential for irritating the skin. Depending on the shampoo, dilute 1 part shampoo to 3 or 4 parts water. The water used should be lukewarm, never hot.

  • If possible, keep the medicated shampoo on the skin for 10 minutes (or as directed) then rinse thoroughly. Shampoo residue is a common cause of skin irritation or allergic reactions in horses, so it is very important to rinse your horse carefully and fully follow all instructions.

  • Medicated shampoos usually need to be used frequently for the most successful results. Ask for and follow your veterinarian’s instructions on shampoo frequency.

Systemic drugs may be needed to treat some disorders. These include whole-body antibiotics, corticosteroids, and other anti-inflammatory drugs.

As with any treatment program, make sure that you read and understand all directions for using the prescribed product, including how to apply or give it, how much to use, and how often it should be administered.

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