Hair Loss in Horses

Hair loss in horses can be a frustrating management concern simply because the reasons for its occurrence are so many and so varied. Here are some common causes.
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hair loss in horses
Gnats tend to feed on the sensitive skin of the belly, inner thighs, poll, mane, withers, and tailhead. The intense irritation they create stimulates a horse to frantically scratch on anything in sight–a post, the side of the barn, feeders, trees and bushes, or even the ground | Photo: iStock

The gleam and shine in your horse’s coat reflects his inner health, and puts a sparkle in your proud eye. Invariably, there will be nicks and scrapes to mar that perfection, but what about the times when portions of your horse’s hair are missing? Hair loss in horses, also known as alopecia, can be a frustrating management concern simply because the reasons for its occurrence are so many and so varied.

Tracking down the reason for skin disorders often becomes an exercise in sleuthing. One important element to consider is whether or not your horse is itching and rubbing out the hair, or if the hair is simply missing because of a disease or immune process that attacks the skin. Let’s look at some of the more common syndromes that cause bald spots on your horse.

Itchy and Missing Hair

Itching, or pruritus, creates a self-inflicted hair loss. Not only should you observe your horse’s general behavior to see if he is scratching himself, but you can scrutinize the skin for features that hint at an itchy condition. Broken hairs cast a high suspicion the horse is scratching the hair away. Reddened skin or tiny scabs are not specific to itching, but might be part of the rubbing process

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Written by:

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care. She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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