Skin and Coat Disorders of Equines

Equines can suffer from a number of different skin and coat problems including mange, ringworm and infections caused by other germs. These conditions cause severe irritation and can result in loss of condition and a reduction in the animal’s ability to work.

Mange on Equines

Several different mites (very small insects) can infect equines and cause mange. Various parts of the body can be affected and the conditions are known as:

Body mange (starts on head and neck and spreads over entire body)
Foot mange or itchy leg
Ear mange

Mange causes severe irritation, scabs and lesions on the skin, and loss of weight. Irritation makes the animals difficult to harness and work. Body mange can cause loss of condition resulting in death.

The mite causing the problem can only be identified by your veterinarian examining skin scrapings under a microscope. Mange can be treated using a preparation containing gamma benzene hexachloride. The stable, harness and grooming equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and if possible disinfected. Remember that some mange mites can infect humans so wash thoroughly after handling infected animals.

Lice Infestations

Lice suck the blood or chew the skin. They are usually seen around the base of the tail or the mane (hair on the top of the neck). They cause irritation and hair loss but can be easily treated using gamma benzene hexachloride.


Several types of ticks feed on equines and attack the legs, belly and ears of the animals. They suck blood and can pass on infections from one animal to another. Ticks can be removed by picking them off but sometimes the mouthparts stay in the animal and cause infections. Ticks are best removed by burning them on the back with a lighted cigarette, the tick then falls off the host.


Equines are troubled by flies which try to feed off body moisture and blood. The animals toss the head and stamp in annoyance.

If the animal has an open wound flies will lay eggs close to it and the maggots which hatch will feed on the blood and meat. Any maggots found should be removed and the wounds should be properly cleansed and treated with tincture of iodine, gentian violet, Dettol or an antibiotic and an insecticidal powder or spray.


Ringworm results in round whitish scabs and loss of hair. It can affect any part of the body and the lesions can become large and join together. It causes irritation and can be treated by washing the scabs with iodine solution. If the infection persists ask you veterinarian for advice and remember that ringworm can infect humans so wash thoroughly after handling animals.

Cracked Heels or Mud Fever and Rain Scald

These conditions are all caused by the same germ which infects the skin when it becomes soft from being wet for a long time. Mud fever or cracked heels occurs on the fetlocks and heels resulting in scabs and cracks in the skin which produce pus. Rain scald consists of small scabs across the back, shoulders and neck when animals have been left to stand in the rain for long periods. Treatment involves removing the scabs and treating the wounds with an antiseptic. The affected areas should be thoroughly dried and the condition can be prevented by drying the animal’s if its skin becomes wet.