Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Biting at Upper Front Limbs, Forearms or Chest

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

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

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

  • If the behavior seems extreme, or the horse seems to be in distress.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.

This frequently occurs as a result of skin irritation due to a wound, insect hypersensitivity or allergies. Stable flies cause skin irritation often resulting in hair loss and crusting, especially on the chest. Bots flies lay their eggs in these areas too, causing skin irritation.

In rare cases, this behavior is part of a behavioral syndrome that result in self-trauma or self-mutilation. As with other stereotypical behavior, this is most common in horses that are housed alone and with little exercise. Horses affected by these syndromes can bite viciously at themselves, causing severe wounding.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the affected areas and the environment. Could this behavior be caused by insects, allergies or any other environmental cause?

What does the affected area look like? Is there a wound, is it growing in size, draining, swollen, scaling or scabbing or painful? Are there bumps? Do you notice other behavioral abnormalities that suggest a primary behavioral problem?

Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

They will assess the horse’s general health and carefully examine the area and the behavior in order to determine the cause. Treatment will involve treating and alleviating the underlying cause of the irritation. In primary behavioral disorders, changes in management and protection of the injured area may be needed.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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