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


Hair Loss, Multiple Areas


Hair loss can be caused by a variety of processes, including trauma from scratching and itching. Hormonal abnormalities that occur in horses with PPID and EMS also contribute to irregular shedding and may in themselves predispose to a variety of other skin conditions including skin infections. Rare autoimmune diseases cause hair loss as well.

The distribution of hair loss is important information, as is the appearance of the skin underneath. Flaky or reddened skin, and hair crusts which will peel off the periphery of the hairless areas may indicate an inflammatory (infectious) process. Sharp edges of hair loss with normal skin on the periphery may indicate that the process is traumatic (other horse bites or kicks).

  • 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 the problem seems very mild and limited to a small area.

your role


What To Do

Take a photo of the pattern of hair loss on both sides of the body. Take a close-up photo of the skin on the edge of the areas and send these to your vet. Use a magnifying glass to look along the edges of the hair loss for tiny external parasites like lice and mites which can also cause skin disease. Take note of whether or not the horse is itchy or scratching. This is also important diagnostic criteria for your vet.

You may choose to treat symptomatically by treating the horse with a soothing, gentle antiseptic shampoo. If you do this, be sure to remove as much scale and crust as possible, and let the shampoo lather stand for 10 minutes. Rinse very well, as soap residues may make the situation worse, and dry. Do this daily for several days, and monitor the horse for improvement. Wear gloves and use caution. The condition could be transmissible to other horses. Clean and disinfect tack.

If the condition continues despite your attempt to treat it, contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that this is "ringworm" and treat for extended periods of time without a diagnosis. Autoimmune diseases like pemphigus can look very much like infectious conditions to the untrained eye. These diseases need to be diagnosed and treated promptly.

your vet's role

Your vet will recognize likely infectious conditions and will have a plan for treating these. In stubborn cases, they may use other diagnostics, like biopsy to better understand the disease process and thus how to treat it.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Are you seeing itchiness (rubbing or scratching)?
  • When did you first notice this problem?
  • What is the horses breed, age and sex?
  • Have you tried any treatments?
  • Were the treatments helpful?
  • Can you send me a photo?
  • Are other horses affected?
  • 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
more diagnoses

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP