Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Sores, Crusts or Scabs on Outside of Lips or on Muzzle

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 you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
  • 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.

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

  • If you consider this a chronic and relatively mild problem that is not changing rapidly.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Crusts and scabs outside the lips and on the muzzle can be caused by a variety of disease processes. Importantly the list of possibilities includes Vesicular Stomatitis, a potentially contagious, reportable viral disease. For this reason, this observation should be taken seriously.

Traumatic injury and bites and stings (especially venomous snake bite) can cause visible scabbing and skin damage. Sores and cuts around the corners of the mouth can be caused by injury from the bit. Contact dermatitis from a chemical or medication can cause blistering and scabbing of the lips and muzzle. If the areas affected are unpigmented (pink) skin, then photosensitization or sunburn should be considered.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to attitude and appetite. Assess their mouth (wear gloves), looking for anything abnormal.

Seek veterinary assistance immediately if this sign is accompanied by depression, loss of appetite or fever. Check your other horses carefully for similar signs. Wear gloves when handling the horse, and isolate the horse until a diagnosis is made, and VS is ruled out.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will consider the likelihood of Vesicular Stomatitis. if that disease is a consideration, it will affect the procedures significantly. Your vet will consider the horse’s environment and management, and a good physical and oral exam will help identify the cause of the lesions.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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