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Loss of Skin Pigment on Face or Head, Skin Turning Pink

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

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

    You notice patches of dark skin on your horse’s head turning pink, possibly near the muzzle or eyes. Over time, these areas seems to gradually increase in size.

    Often, the cause of this pigment loss is poorly understood. Sometimes skin turns pink because pigment producing cells have been damaged due to trauma (injury, inflammation, surgery or cryotherapy).

    Mysterious spreading of pink areas that cannot be attributed to trauma may have a genetic origin. This is known as Vitiligo. This more commonly occurs to older gray horses, and can lead to secondary problems such as sunburn.


    Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) paying particular attention to the affected areas, protect them from excessive exposure to the sun. Look for areas of irritation (reddening and hair loss). Notice whether the affected areas seems itchy. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.


    Your vet recognizes the common syndromes affecting horses and the general approach to diagnosis and treatment. Some of the fading syndromes have a genetic basis and there may not be much treatment possible. The question is always whether what is occurring is harming the horse, and what can be done to minimize this harm.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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