Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Sores, Crusts, Scabs or Peeling on White Areas of Face

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

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

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

  • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

  • If this is the only sign you notice. The horse seems well to you otherwise.
  • If the problem seems very mild and limited to a small area.

Peeling and crusting of the white areas on a horse’s face can result from a simple sunburn or windburn. But this could also be photosensitization, which is a distinct disease process that may need to be treated differently.

Photosensitization is severe sunburn caused by interaction of ultraviolet light with specific molecules in blood or skin. These molecules come from certain feeds. The problem can also occur when liver dysfunction allows the levels of certain sun-reactive plant pigments to increase in the tissues. Horses with liver disease are usually depressed and have reduced appetites.

WHAT TO DO

You can treat reddened skin on the face symptomatically with sunscreens and zinc oxide, but understand the need to differentiate between possible disease processes. Prevent additional exposure to the sun by covering the affected area of your horse’s face with a face mask and a muzzle extension, if necessary. Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the rectal temperature, the appearance of the gums (look for a yellow shade), general attitude and appetite.

Consider whether the horse’s diet or management has changed. Some hays are photosensitizing. Horses on certain types of pasture are more at risk for photosensitization. Share your findings and management with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Through examination and blood work, your vet can help differentiate simple sunburn from more serious photosensitization.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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