Ask Your Veterinarian Presented By Equistro: Treating Tricky Skin Diseases

by | 07.11.2019 | 4:49pm
Pastern dermatitis can be especially stubborn. Sarah Coleman Photo

In our Ask Your Veterinarian series, we bring your questions to the practitioners of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., and they provide answers. Got a question you want to see in this series? Email info at

QUESTION: Skin diseases can be so tricky to get rid of; should I be using a different product based on the type of skin disease my horse has, or is it just a long, frustrating battle regardless?

DR. SCOTT PIERCE: Whenever I'm asked about skin problems, I usually ask Dr. Suzi White, a highly regarded professor at the University of Georgia, for her opinion.

This is what she said: “Unless there is a specific disease I suggest a non-detergent plant-based shampoo for general bathing. Many horses, such as those on the track, are bathed every day. Thus, one wants to minimize removal of natural skin oils that make the skin more susceptible to adverse skin conditions.

Generally I am not in favor of iodine-based shampoos such as betadine, as the iodine dries the skin out. For really moist exudative lesions a two-percent chlorhexidine shampoo or one of the malacetic acid shampoos will work well. There are shampoos that have both two-percent chlorhexidine plus either miconazole or ketaconazole at one to two percent that can be used on “unknown” lesions that may have either a superficial bacterial infection, dermatophyte or yeast infection. I am not in favor of four-percent chlorhexidine shampoos as this concentration may burn some horses.

Dr. Suzi White

For horses with allergies or insect bite hypersensitivities, I usually recommend use of topical one-percent hydrocortisone products, either in the shampoo or as a leave-on rinse or spray after bathing.

Some authors (and me too) think frequent bathing of a horse with a disseminated dermatophyte infection (such as seen in young horses in training) will serve to disperse the spores of the organism and may also result in more hair breakage. I do think the crusts and scaling need to be removed (through bathing) prior to treatment with a topical leave-on medication. Also remember that dermatophytes live in the hair follicle, so gentle brushing of medication with a soft brush on the skin helps to ensure the medication reaches the skin surface (rather than staying on top of scales or crusts) and thus has access to hair follicles.

If treating pastern dermatitis, the legs should be dried after washing and be thoroughly dry before any topical medications are applied. Since pastern dermatitis that does not respond to simple cleansing and drying may be multifactorial in origin, I advise advice from a veterinarian.”

Dr. Scott Pierce is a practitioner and shareholder at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital specializing in juvenile Thoroughbreds, upper airway endoscopy and public/private sales. Dr. Suzi White is a professor emeritus at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine focusing on respiratory disease, dermatology, and neonatology. 

Twitter Twitter
Paulick Report on Instagram