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JC Dill
JC Dill, AFA Certified Farrier Equine expert
Category: Pet
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Experience:  Horse and pet owner for over 30 years, experienced caring for many different types of animals.
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My horse is losing its hair in big patches on ...

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My horse is losing it's hair in big patches on it's side, legs and some on her face. She also has a big bump on her lip that has a red head. What should I do?
Hi Christiana,

Thank you for asking about your horse. I'm sure I can help you. First, I need to know:

Where are you located?
What is the weather like in your area right now?
Please describe the bump on her lip in more detail.
How big is it? Does it weep or ooze? Does it have a scab?

Your detailed answers to these questions will enable me to give you my best suggestions.


Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to JC Dill's Post: Hi,
We live in Washington and the weather has been rainy. Our field flooded and she was stuck in a bunch of mud. The hairloss started about 2 weeks ago and yesterday we put her in boarding to get her out of the mud. We have had her for a few months and the previous owners told us she had mud fever last winter. The sore on her lip is round about the size of a dime and sticks out about 1/4 inch. It looks like a big pimple with a red tip. This has just shown up within the last 24 hrs. Thanks!
Hi Christiana,

Your mare's hair loss is almost certainly normal - this is the time of year when horses shed out the winter coat, and her summer coat is coming in underneath. Use a rubber curry comb to help loosen and remove the shedding hair. If she has a thick coat and is not a thin skinned horse you can also use a shedding blade or metal curry comb, but those tools are too rough for some sensitive horses. She will really appreciate a lot of currying with the curry comb to loosen and remove this hair. She may make strange faces with her lips - this is something horses do when you find a good "itchy spot".

Mud fever is also called cracked heels, scratches, rain rot, greasy heel, mud rash, and dew poisoning. It usually affects just the rear part of the horse's lower limbs. See:

for more info.

The sore on her lip sounds like it might be a bite, but it could also be a puncture. Is there any swelling other than on the sore itself? Does she indicate that it hurts if you lightly touch it or touch her lip near it? If she doesn't object to a light touch, also try a very light squeeze. (To be sure it isn't a puncture you need to lightly squeeze it to see if anything oozes out.) If it isn't painful and there isn't any other swelling or oozing I suggest you just keep an eye on it and otherwise leave it alone to heal naturally. If the swelling increases or you have other symptoms that something is wrong, then you should have a vet out to take a look. Also, she is probably be due for her spring vaccinations (Tetanus, WEE/EEE/VEE, Flu, Rhino, Rabies etc - ask your vet which vaccines you need in your area), so you could have the vet do the vaccinations and take a look at her lip at the same time.

Good luck!

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to JC Dill's Post: Just wanted to make sure--It's normal for them to shed down to the skin? She looks horrible! She has her shaggy fur and then the big patches of missing hair. I just wanted to make sure it was normal!! Thanks!
Hi again Christiana,

It is unusual for a horse to shed down to the skin, but it happens. I've had it happen to several of my horses over the years. Once it happened to a mare that was about to foal - I called my vet and she reassured me the horse was just fine. She said that the hormones can sometimes trigger faster shedding - it happens in mare that aren't in foal and also happens in geldings too.

The way shedding works is that as the new hair comes in, the old hair has to fall out to allow the new hair to grow in the same hair follicle. Normally this happens slowly over a matter of weeks, with different follicles shedding at different rates and starting growning the new hair on different days. But sometimes it happens where all the follicles in a given area just shed all the hair at once.

The new hair is there, it's just so short that you can't see it yet (it may still be entirely inside the follicle, or it may be just peeking out and not long and thick enough to show as a hair coat yet). In every case I've seen at this time of year, a week later the new hair is longer and more clearly visible.

There's nothing you need to do or can do to help the new hair come in. If your horse has white skin in the areas where she's losing hair "to the skin" make sure she doesn't get sunburned on the bare skin. You can use suntan lotion, or just keep her in the shade (e.g. in a stall or covered arena) between 9 and 4 or so.

If she has any other symptoms - if the skin is red or irritated or she has sores or swelling or is uncomfortable having you touch her skin, then you may want to have a vet out to examine her. But at this time of year, hair loss by itself - even to the point of shedding to reveal the skin, is common enough that you don't need to panic about it.

Good luck!

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