What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Hair Loss, One Location, Anywhere on Body or Back


The most common reason for a defined area of hair loss on the body is trauma, which is often caused by other horses (a bite or kick). These patches usually have smooth edges of healthy hair that cannot be easily plucked out. Kick injuries may be shaped like the soles of hooves. Bites can look like, well, bite marks. Often the skin is damaged badly enough to peel. These lesions are usually in locations you would expect: the topline, neck, etc.

However, hair loss caused by bacteria or fungal infection can be hard to differentiate from trauma. For this reason, treat any hair loss situation as contagious until you have discussed it with your vet. Multiple horses can be affected by infectious agents and disease can be transmitted through tack and contact.

Fungal and bacterial hair loss tends to have a less defined scaling around the edge of the patch, and is most commonly found on the head, back, girth area and top-line. Hair loss can also occur with chemical or thermal burns and a variety of other conditions.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the area seems painful to the touch.
    • If the problem seems severe, or involves a large area.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you consider this a chronic and relatively mild problem that is not changing rapidly.
    • 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.

your role


What To Do

Assess the area and share your findings and concerns with your vet. Notice whether the areas are painful or itchy. Treat undiagnosed hair loss as contagious until proven otherwise. Be careful of spread through tack and equipment. You can try an antiseptic shampoo on the area. Treat for several days, remove all scabs and scale, let stand 10 minutes, rinse well and dry. If there is not improvement in a week.

What Not To Do

Do not treat with harsh antiseptics without veterinary guidance.
Do not inadvertently spread bacterial or fungal agents to your other horses through sharing tack or equipment.

your vet's role

If your vet suspects that hair loss is a result of bacteria or fungus, they may suggest additional diagnostics and treatment and will discuss prevention in your other horses.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the appearance of the patch or patches of hair loss?
  • Does the horse live with or near other horses?
  • Are other horses exhibiting similar signs?
  • Can you expand the affected area by picking hairs or crusts on the edges?
  • Is the skin crusty or does it have any lesions or scales?
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Are there multiple affected areas?
  • Are you seeing itchiness (rubbing or scratching)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP