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


Crusts, Scabs or Hair Loss on Chest


The skin overlying the pectoral muscles of the chest is an area commonly affected by a variety of skin related conditions that can cause hair loss, crusting, peeling and scabbing.

Crusts and scabs in this area are commonly associated with fly irritation, traumatic injuries, tumors or infections. This is also an area that horses tend to rub, itch and bite at. They can make a condition worse with self-trauma. A notable infection that takes many forms but tends to affect the chest area is Pigeon Fever. The good news is that this area tends to be fairly easy to treat.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If a skin lesion is larger, growing or causing pain or itchiness.
  • 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

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and assess the affected area carefully, noting whether there is swelling, heat or drainage. Since some potential diagnoses are contagious, it is wise to wear gloves.

You may choose to treat skin lesions here symptomatically, and antiseptic shampoos may be a good choice. If flies are present, use a non-irritating fly repellent to keep flies off.

However contact your vet if there is no improvement, if the problem seems serious, or if you find any other abnormalities. You may also send your vet a photo of the affected area.

your vet's role

Your vet is familiar with the skin conditions that tend to affect different regions of the horse's body. This helps them to differentiate them. They may use other diagnostics as needed, or advise you to treat symptomatically for a time to see if the signs disappear.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Are there other areas of hair loss?
  • Are flies bothering the horse?
  • Have there been large numbers of flies?
  • Are you seeing itchiness (rubbing or scratching)?
  • Can you detect swelling or heat in the area?
  • Is the horse pastured with other horses?
  • What treatments have you tried and how did they work?
  • Do your other horses show similar signs?

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

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