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


Mangy Looking, Widespread Hair Loss & Poor Coat


Widespread hair loss in horses is rare and may be associated with a variety of conditions including parasitic mites and lice, fungal ringworm (dermatophytosis), and bacterial infections of the skin like Dermatophilus (Rain Scald).

Less common causes include nutritional deficiencies and toxicities. Widespread hair loss can also result from body-wide illness, following pregnancy, or in response to a stressful event. In some cases, horses simply drop their coat (effluvium), the cause of which is poorly understood.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • 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 Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and share your findings and concerns with your vet. Your vet will conduct a careful history, physical exam and examination of the skin and coat. There may be value in assessing body-wide health using blood work and other laboratory testing. Some conditions may be difficult to diagnose. In that case, your vet may use response to treatment to help diagnose the problem.

Talk to your vet about the possibility that your horse has a contagious disease. In this case, isolate the horse and be careful of spreading a potentially infectious agent to other horses via hand contact or shared tack or equipment.

your vet's role

A vet exam in this situation might start with an assessment of general health, nutrition and management. Once that is done, then an assessment of the skin, in particular looking for external parasites, might be indicated. In some cases, skin scraping, biopsy and blood work may be recommended.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this problem?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Are other horses in the group affected?
  • What is the horse's travel history?
  • Has your horse lost weight recently?
  • Do you notice problems with the other horses?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP