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


Multiple Sores, Crusts, or Scabs on Skin, Anywhere on Body


Sores, scabbing or crusting of the skin can result from a variety of disease processes including bacterial or fungal infection, infected wounds, contact irritation and allergy, insects, immune mediated disease, trauma (including a bite from another horse) and a variety of less common conditions.

These cases range greatly in severity. They can be mild and self-resolve with no treatment, they can spread and become increasingly difficult to treat, or they can cause secondary injuries if a horse tries to itch or bite the affected area. Some are painful, some are not.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If a skin lesion is larger, growing or causing pain or itchiness.
    • If the problem seems severe, or involves a large area.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If a skin lesion is small, not itchy and changing slowly or not at all.
    • If the problem seems very mild and limited to a small area.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
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your role


What To Do

Keep in mind that these sorts of skin conditions can be contagious. Be careful not to spread infection to other horses. Depending on severity and location of the condition, you may treat the crusts symptomatically by gently removing crusts or debris with your fingers or a stiff brush, and cleaning the affected area with gentle antiseptic shampoo.

If this is not possible, if the condition worsens or spreads or if your horse is showing any other sign of illness or disease, contact your vet to discuss your findings and concerns. Discuss with your vet whether anything has recently changed in your horse's environment, particularly anything that may have come into contact with your horse's skin or coat - a new blanket, new shampoo, etc. As with many skin conditions, it is helpful to know if the condition is itchy or causing your horse irritation.

What Not To Do

Do not try to treat the condition symptomatically if it causes your horse undue stress or pain. Let your vet examine the horse and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

Keep in mind that these sorts of skin conditions can be contagious. Be careful not to spread infection to other horses.

your vet's role

Your vet may advise you to continue to provide symptomatic treatment and monitor your horse. Alternatively, your vet may seek to definitively identify the cause, and suggest an examination of the horse with or without other diagnostics.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • Where, specifically is the skin problem located?
  • What do the crusts look like?
  • Have you applied anything to the skin in the last week?
  • Are other horses affected?
  • Is the horse rubbing or scratching?
  • Can you send me a photo of the problem?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

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
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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP