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


Skin Seems Reddened or Irritated in a Location


Reddened skin is often only seen in horses (Paints, Appaloosas, and Pintos) with white haired or pink skinned areas, and especially in anatomic areas where the hair is absent or short, like the muzzle, face, around the eyes, around the anus and vulva, on the sheath or on white limbs.

Skin tumors, infections, allergic skin disease, insects, skin burns and countless other disorders may all result in reddened skin. A hallmark of the healing process is inflammation, the opening of the blood vessels. This allows infection fighting and healing elements from the blood into an affected area. This causes skin to appear red. The other hallmarks of healing are swelling and local pain. Reddened skin in an area is also commonly caused by sunburn.

Male horses with pink sheath skin often produce reddish colored smegma, which can make the sheath or penis area look inflamed when it isn't.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If there is swelling and pain associated with this problem.
    • 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.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and assess the affected area. Look for any other abnormalities, swelling or a pain response when the area is gently touched. Contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

They may tell you to monitor the area and take a "wait and see" approach, or they may recommend that they examine the horse.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What areas of the horse's skin are affected?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • How severe do you think the problem is?
  • Do you notice any swelling or other abnormality in the area?
  • Does the horse react in pain when pressure is put on the area?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Can you tell what is causing the problem?

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