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


Itching, Rubbing or Scratching around Tail Head


Horse people often associate horses scratching and rubbing of the tailhead and anal area with parasites. Pinworms do cause irritation here and can cause this behavior.

But scratching the tail head can also be seen with insect and other allergy, feed allergy, mange (mite infestation), among many other causes. It is also sometimes seen in geldings with sheath or penis irritation, or in mares with smegma accumulation around the clitoris/clitoral fossa, or accumulations of debris around the udder or teats. Horses that have growths or inflammatory conditions of the area around the anus may rub and scratch as well. In some cases, it may not be possible to find a cause at all.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general heath using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the area around the anus and tail base. If a mare, check the vulva and udder areas for accumulation of debris. If a gelding, assess and possibly clean the sheath.

Your vet may recommend that you give the horse a bath using a mild shampoo and concentrating on the tail head and anal area. Be sure to rinse all the soap away as this can cause irritation in itself. Try to reduce fly irritation.

your vet's role

Your vet evaluates the whole horse to look for clues for the behavior. Fecal examination or "tape tests" may be used to determine whether parasites do in fact, play a role. Depending on the results, de-worming may be advised.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • How long have you observed this behavior?
  • Are flies bothering the horse?
  • When was your horse last de-wormed, and what was used?
  • Do you notice abnormalities around the vulva or anal area?
  • Do you notice any abnormalities of the penis or sheath?

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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP