Equine Skin Disease Doesn’t Always Have A Simple Fix, Can Cause Significant Broader Illness

by | 05.22.2020 | 8:07am

Though fairly common in horses exposed to prolonged wet weather, skin disease may be more of an issue than many horse owners and caretakers realize. There are 13 species of yeast-like fungi that are commonly found in air, water, plant tissue, soil, milk and silage. Occasionally the fungi can cause skin disease in both animals and humans, some of which can be very serious.

In a recent article, Drs. Barbara Padalino, Jeanine Rhoda Sandy, Roberta Barrasso, Adriana Trotta, Giancarlo Bozzo and Claudia Cafarchia reported on an 11-year-old Saddlebred that had developed lesions on his neck a week after standing surgery to remove a splint bone; the horse had received antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection and the owner had assumed he was having an allergic reaction to the medication.

The area was not itchy, so the owner administered oral corticosteroids for a week. The horse did not get well and became more unthrifty and lost weight. One week after the steroids were stopped, the veterinarian was called.

The vet found additional nodules on the front legs near the chest. An allergic reaction was still suspected, so the veterinarian continued treatment with corticosteroids and antihistamines. The dermatitis spread to the horse's head, legs and shoulders. The horse then began acting colicky and was treated with flunixin meglumine.

A second veterinarian was consulted. The horse developed a fever and increased heart and respiratory rates; hair was easily pulled from the body and he developed severe swelling of the hind limbs. Some of the nodules produced a yellowish exudate and the most-affected bald areas developed scales.

Blood samples showed mildly elevated white cell count and excess globulins. Hair and skin samples allowed vets to determine the horse had a fungal infection; he began treatment of an antifungal solution and antioxidants. The horse made a complete recovery and antioxidants were recommended as an ongoing supplement.

The researchers stress that a skin infection can cause significant illness and a veterinarian may need to be called, especially if the horse does not respond to treatment.

Read the full study here.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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