Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Reddening of Muzzle, Nose, or other Unpigmented Skin

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 the problem seems severe, or involves a large area.

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

  • 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.

This observation is commonly associated with Paints, Appaloosas and Pintos, because it can only be seen on horses with lots of white hair and/or unpigmented (pink) skin around the head, face, anus, vulva or sheath. The primary question is always whether reddening is a sunburn or photosensitization, two distinctly different problems.

WHAT TO DO

You can treat the condition symptomatically under the assumption that this is a simple sunburn. However, you may run the risk of delaying treatment for photosensitization, a complex disease process that requires different treatment. Likewise, if your horse has sustained a serious sunburn that results in blistering or open sores, or your horse appears to be in significant discomfort due to itching or peeling, or seems unwell otherwise, immediately talk to your vet about your findings and concerns.

Prevent additional exposure to the sun by moving your horse to a shaded area or covering the affected area of your horse’s face with a face mask with a muzzle extension, if needed. For sunburn on the body, use a light fly-sheet (rated for ultraviolet light protection) over the affected area. Even sunburned horses still like to stand in the sun. Lure them to a shady spot by moving their feed, water, or salt block to a shady area. In severe cases, confinement in a cool stall may be needed until your vet can evaluate the horse.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will evaluate your horse’s general health and seek to rule out more serious diagnoses before concluding that your horse has a simple sunburn. Laboratory blood tests may be helpful in this case, to rule out liver dysfunction.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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