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


Hair Loss on Head or Face


Hair loss on the head or face can result from a variety of causes. The location of hair loss may provide a clue as to the condition causing it. Possible causes include trauma, fungal infections (ringworm), bacterial infections, parasitic infestation (both external and internal) and allergic causes, among many others.

Sometimes the hair falls out on its own. Other times hair loss results from rubbing or scratching an itchy area.

Keep in mind that symmetric hair loss in a growing foal (usually a few months old) is often just shedding of the foal's baby coat. You see this hair loss start typically around the eyes. It can be quite striking in foals with a light baby coat and dark "true color".

  • 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.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the problem seems very mild and limited to a small area.
    • If you have tried treating symptomatically and there is still a problem.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Carefully examine the areas of hair loss looking for external parasites and skin conditions. Note whether the hair loss is symmetric or just on one side of the body. Take note of whether the underlying skin is scaly, scabby, red or inflamed, and contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

When in doubt, treat the problem as potentially contagious to your other horses until your vet advises otherwise.

What Not To Do

Do not use harsh chemicals on horse skin (strong iodine, undiluted bleach). Harsh does not equate with effective.

When treating skin conditions of the face, be sure not to get irritating antiseptic solutions into the eyes.

your vet's role

Certain conditions are more commonly seen on the head or face than other areas. Your vet uses a dermatologic exam, and may also recommend certain diagnostics to reach a diagnosis.

In some cases, vets treat skin conditions without reaching a definitive diagnosis. If the signs disappear, we may assume that the condition was resolved with treatment. If it does not, we may need to perform additional diagnostics and adjust the treatment plan.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Are there other horses affected?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Does the skin seem irritated, (peeling or crusting) also or is the hair simply seeming to fall out?
  • Does the hair loss correspond to areas in contact with bridle or halter?
  • Are you seeing itchiness (rubbing or scratching)?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

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
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP