Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Skin is Sloughing Off, Anywhere on Body

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If the area seems painful to the touch.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • If the problem seems severe, or involves a large area.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the problem seems very mild and limited to a small area.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
  • If the condition does not seem to be causing pain or other problem.

Skin dies off as a result of direct injury to the cells or loss of blood supply which provides nourishment. The exact cause of skin sloughing could include trauma, loss of blood supply, damage by infectious agents, severe allergy, poisonous snake and spider bites, and many others.

Any sort of skin trauma (especially bites or kicks from another horse) may not initially result in a visible problem other than a slight swelling and what appears to be a scrape. However the skin may actually be more severely damaged, and it may begin to dry up and slough off in a few days.

Sometimes only the superficial layer of skin peels off. In other cases, the damage is full skin thickness, resulting in an open wound underneath. In partial thickness sloughing, there will be thickening of the underlying skin and generally hair will re-grow in the area. For full thickness wounds, scarring may result.

WHAT TO DO

You can gently remove any loose, obviously dead skin but do not aggressively pull away skin as you may remove skin that is still viable and might contribute to healing. Consider the amount of swelling and presence of any discharge. If the injury is on a limb, consider whether the horse is lame. Contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will look at the distribution of the sloughing skin and try to determine the underlying cause and the best treatment plan.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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