Skin Infections in Horses: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Treatments and Natural Remedies

skin infections in horses

Horses are one of the most common outdoor pets. Their body strength can make their owners’ activities easier. While assisting their owners in different ways, their skin gets exposed to different bacteria, viruses, or even parasites that can easily cause skin infections in horses.  

Some skin infections are mild; hence they do not show any severe symptoms. However, visible inflammations and continuous itching can lead to serious problems. That is why early diagnosis and treatments are essential. That way, you can avoid greater troubles regarding your equine’s skin. In this article, we have tried to provide some necessary information about skin infections in horses.

To know more about different health problems in horses, check this article “Health Problems in Horses – The Most Comprehensive Account of the Major Health Issues in Horses“.

Causes of skin infections in horses 

Skin infections in horses can happen due to several reasons. For instance, infections can spread through insect attacks, damp weather, lack of hygiene, and fragile immune system.

Sometimes, it is even difficult to identify the exact cause of equine skin disease. However, the most common infections are –

  • Bacterial infection
  • Fungal infection 
  • Viral infection
  • Parasitic infection

These infections have many varieties. Moreover, they mainly depend on the environment and breed of horses.

Environmental Factors

  • Polluted soils
  • Bites of pests or ticks 
  • Filthy and waterlogged habitats
  • Contaminated condition of the equipment


  • Transmission from an infected horse
  • Transmission from infected human

Circumstantial infections

  • Infections from injuries and skin damage
  • Surgical infections
  • Change in skin due to sudden disturbance and trauma

Symptoms of skin infections in horses  

Some frequently occurred symptoms of skin infections in horses are – 

  • Inflammation  
  • Pain on skin
  • Stinking skin coating or crusts
  • Itching and scratching
  • High abdominal temperature 
  • Painful and open lesions
  • Weakness in feet
  • Pus discharge
  • Faded skin color and hair loss
  • Painful body parts
  • Fast heart rate
  • Skin roughness

Along with these symptoms, sometimes, your horse may show signs of discomfort in outdoor activities. As a result, they have an object to the fastener on the skin. Also, they do not accept riders easily.

Types of common skin infections in horses

Fungus and bacteria are the two most common culprits of horse skin infections. Besides, viruses like equine papillomavirus cause skin tumors (warts) in horses. Moreover, mites, lice, and midge bites can also cause skin infections in horses. 

The following chart contains an overview of fungal and bacterial skin disease in a horse.


Disease Name

Short description of Fungus/Bacteria


Fungal Infections (Mycoses)


Dermatophytes (a certain type of zoonotic fungus) are responsible for this skin condition. These types of fungus exist in the soil and animal skin.

  • Round and whitish lesion

  • Crusts in the skin layer

Epizootic lymphangitis

The fungus for this disease is called Histoplasma farciminosum.

This kind of infection happens due to wound inflammation or transmission. Blood-sucking insects (mosquitoes) or other parasites are to blame for this condition.

  • The continuous growth of small, unremarkable lesions

  • Nodules underneath the skin

  • stiff, sore, and inflamed skin tissues around the lesions

Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever)

Coccidioidomycosis is caused by the fungus Coccidioides immitis. However, consumption of fungal spores through breathing is the only conventional media of this infection.

  • Coughing

  • Fever

  • Weight loss

  • Soreness of the skin

  • Placental infections

Bacterial Infections

Rain rot

The spores of Dermatophilus congolensis cause this type of bacterial skin infection.

  • Presence of bumps and tangled coat on the back

  • Crusty flakes of skin or scabs

  • Itching

Pastern dermatitis (Mud fever)

Staphylococcus or Dermatophilus congolensis can cause bacterial inflammation. 

  • Knotted hair with crusty coating on the pasterns

  • Hair fall

  • Dull skin

  • Increase of temperature and soreness in the affected skin

  • Lameness in the affected areas New List Item


Some important notes 

  • In ringworm infection, there is an important sign. That is, several lesions or crusts on the horses’ skin create a “map-like” outer shell. Nevertheless, this problem is common in too little or too old horses. Additionally, weak immune flexibility increases the risk factor. 
  • Epizootic lymphangitis affects the upper skin as well as the lymph vessels and nodes beneath the skin. Therefore, the lesions heal partially for a long time. Thus, it causes a converted and renewed outbreak of this disease. 
  • Valley fever is mainly dust borne and non-transmittable. However, in dusty weather and droughts, sudden epidemic outbursts can occur.
  • Insect bites can transmit the rain rot bacterium from one horse to another. Dermatophilus can also affect humans and other domestic animals. However, this bacterium can successfully manage to stay alive on the equine’s skin. Also, it does not create any discomfort on the skin until long time exposure in damp and moist weather. 
  • The same bacterium can cause both ring rot and pastern dermatitis. 

To know more about different health problems in senior horses, check this article “Senior Horse Health Problems – Potential Risks, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment“.

Treatments and preventions of skin infections in horses  



Normally, ringworm heals naturally in a few weeks or months. However, this physical condition of horses is extremely infectious. In addition, the fungus spores can remain in the environment for about three years. Do not ignore it and leave it untreated. Your vet may suggest some contemporary medications to your horse. Most of the prescriptions in such cases include anti-fungal shampoo and nitrofurazone to wash the lesions. We suggest Vetericyn FoamCare Medicated Horse Shampoo. It successfully soothes the skin. To clarify, it works to avoid various types of bacterial and fungal infections like yeast, rain rot, ringworm, etc. Moreover, it is a spray foam shampoo, which makes its use easier.

  • No harsh chemicals and Paraben
  • Preserve the normal pH balance of the skin
  • The smell may create discomfort for some users.


  • Ringworm has a high risk of spreading through the affected horse. So, you need to separate the infected horse from the herd.
  • Use different instruments and brushes for the affected ones. Furthermore, do not mix up the tools. You already know that this type of fungus spores stay active in suitable environments. 
  • Disinfect all the grooming tools. Also, clean all the possible places within your horse’s contact. 
  • Use disposable latex gloves in the time of nursing the horses. Thoroughly clean your hands and clothes after the session. 
  • Lastly, better immunity in your horses can prevent skin fungus. That way, they can overcome skin infections.

Epizootic lymphangitis


This disease is not curable completely. However, your vet can perform surgery to remove the inflamed lesions. Besides, this surgery needs combined substitute anti-fungal drugs. Yet, sadly, in most cases, treatment of this disease is not permissible. The majority of these types’ skin infections in horses result in mandatory euthanasia.   


  • Maintain strict sanitation procedures to avoid epizootic lymphangitis. As well, follow the advice of your veterinary dermatologist. 
  • Beds of the affected horses should be destroyed. However, it is better to burn them. 
  • It may spread through horse grooming equipment. Therefore, you should supervise with proper care.

Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever)


Your vet can confirm coccidioidomycosis through the diagnosis of fungus infections in body tissues. Normally, no specific treatments are necessary. However, in the case of chronic respiratory signs or multisystemic disease, anti-fungal treatment may require. 


  • Avoid dust and soil interaction from your horse’s skin.

Rain rot


Usually, rain rot symptoms recover over time. However, it is contagious. Hence, it should be treated with top priority. Moreover, home remedies like antimicrobial soaps and cleaning of the affected skin work well on these diseases. Your veterinarian can suggest Benzoyl peroxide and chlorhexidine. Make sure to have proper knowledge of the dosage and procedure of application.


  • Manage dryness and cleanliness of horse skin. 
  • Use insect repellent to avoid further attacks on your horses.
  • If your horse has thick-layered coating skin, it is quite vulnerable to rain rot infections. Therefore, regular skin clipping and care are necessary to avoid this skin infection in horses. 

Pastern dermatitis


Antimicrobial soaps work efficiently for this treatment. Moreover, regular dry wash and clean skin can keep the signs away. In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe medicated antibiotic ointments (neomycin). Remember, you have to apply these ointments on dry skin. 


  • Keep your horse away from the mud-covered and damp territory for expanded periods.
  • If your horse has got a weighty hair volume and feathering around their fetlocks, it can be alarming. Hence, in the grooming session, keep the feathering area short. It can prevent both bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Ensure clean and dry surroundings for them. 

Home remedies for skin infections in horses

Apple cider vinegar 

A little amount of apple cider vinegar works as a natural bug preventative. However, you need to mix it with water. Moreover, a raw and unfiltered version of apple cider vinegar works best. As a result, it can balance the natural pH level of your horse’s skin. Thus, your horse’s skin may seem less appealing to insects and parasites. Although, stop using if any irritation occurs.

Kunzea oil

Kunzea oil is an essential oil with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Mainly, it is found in Tasmania, with a mixture of sulfur and zinc oxide. Some researchers of the University of Tasmania have found amazing results. In other words, they have been successful in treating skin fungus in horses with this oil. In most cases, visible results can be confirmed within a week. 

Coconut oil

Commonly, skin irritations and skin infections in horses happen due to dry skins. Without a doubt, coconut oil is one of the traditional home remedies to treat equine dry skin flakes. In the case of rain scald and mud fever, coconut oil can be very beneficial. Also, it is a well- suited waterproofing substance for horse skin. 

Pour a suitable amount of oil onto your palm. Then, gently rub around the affected areas in a circular motion. As an alternative, you can use hand gloves. After the oil application, you can normally brush away the scabs. This technique will also improve the blood circulation process of equines. 

Antibiotic and anti-fungal herbs

Antibiotic herbs for horse skin infections usually prevent the attacks of the gram-positive bacteria. These bacteria are responsible for skin scratches or rain rot. 

Among different antibiotic herbs, goldenseal, licorice, Echinacea, and garlic can be used both internally and physically. Also, they reduce infectivity and skin inflammations. Moreover, garlic and tea tree extracts are known for their anti-fungal properties. 


In most of the situations, equine skin diseases are often treatable. Nevertheless, you must take precautionary measures. Moreover, it will be more convenient than waiting for some bacterial or fungal skin infections in horses

You just need to research a little on the related facts about your horse’s skin. Also, it is essential to keep in regular touch with your veterinarian. Furthermore, observe the horse’s activities frequently and, in case of any unusual behaviors, check on its skin first. In conclusion, your proper supervision and grooming alone can solve most of your horse’s skin problems.  

To know more about different health problems in horses, check this article “Health Problems in Horses – The Most Comprehensive Account of the Major Health Issues in Horses“.