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


Hair Coming Off in Clumps or Crusts


Skin diseases resulting in hair loss are common in horses and result from a variety of causes including trauma and bacterial or fungal infections. Certain conditions cause hair to come off in crusts or clumps, leaving exposed areas of pink inflamed skin.

Simple skin conditions can be mild and resolve with little or no treatment. However, they can also quickly spread and become increasingly difficult to treat. Sometimes a horse will bite or rub the affected areas, resulting in further trauma.

  • 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.
    • If the horse has lost weight or seems to be doing poorly, in addition to this sign.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If this is the only sign you notice. The horse seems well to you otherwise.
    • If a skin lesion is small, not itchy and changing slowly or not at all.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Carefully examine and groom the horse's whole body, taking note of the pattern and location of the hair loss, because this information may help your vet narrow down the cause of this problem.

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to body weight, general attitude and appetite, as well as whether the skin lesions are painful or itchy - i.e. is the horse biting at or rubbing the affected areas?

Carefully examine your other horses to determine whether they are also showing similar signs of hair loss.

If you choose to treat simple skin problems on your own use mild antiseptics and follow the instructions in the related skill "Treat Simple Skin Conditions". However, if you do not see rapid improvement or your horse is trying to itch or bite the affected areas, send a photo to your vet and contact them with your findings and concerns.

Keep in mind that some skin conditions are contagious to other horses. ALWAYS wear gloves when treating the affected areas and wash your hands with antiseptic soap before touching other horses. Only rarely are infectious equine skin conditions contagious to humans.

What Not To Do

Do not remove the hair or crusts yourself if it causes your horse undue pain or stress.

Do not share tack or equipment with other horses until your vet has determined the cause of the problem, which could be contagious.

your vet's role

Your vet's approach depends on the specific nature and severity of the problem. In mild cases, your vet may advise you to provide symptomatic treatment and monitor your horse for improvement. In more severe or potentially contagious cases, your vet may want to examine the horse and perform diagnostics to identify the cause and recommend a treatment plan.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Are you seeing itchiness (rubbing or scratching)?
  • Where specifically is the hair loss?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Can you expand the affected area by picking hairs or crusts on the edges?
  • Do you see white hair along the back or topline?
  • Are there other horses affected?
  • Does the horse appear to be losing weight?
  • How is the horse's weight or body condition score (BCS)?
  • Have you tried to treat the problem?
  • What treatments have you tried and how did they work?

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
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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP