EQUUS ‘Farm Calls’ episode 11: Skin problems

Dr. Ann Rashmir discusses what can go wrong with your horse's skin and how to promote equine skin health.

Equine sarcoid

The skin is the largest organ of the body. That means there is a lot of territory for something to go wrong. Every horse owner has had to face some sort of skin problem with a horse, whether mild scratches, rain rot or something severe.

Dr. Ann Rashmir, who is self-employed in the Washington, D.C. area, is a board-certified surgeon. She has an interest in dermatology, and her research has included heritable equine regional dermal asthenia (or HERDA). Included in her job history is 10 1/2 years as an associate professor, Large Animal Clinical Sciences, at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine and as the current equine program manager of the Western Veterinary Conference, a title she has held for more than eight years. She also was the co-chair of the equine sarcoid consensus statement.

Common Causes

One of the points that Rashmir made in this EQUUS Farm Calls podcast was that skin problems can indicate a nutrition concern. She said that micronutrients might be lacking in a horse’s diet, which can cause skin issues. However, she cautioned horse owners not to “go crazy” with supplements. “There is a lot of help for nutrition issues,” she said.

Another key Rashmir noted is that horse owners need to appropriately cleanse their horses’ skin—not strip off the outer layer of fats “Dish detergent is not good for horse skin,” she stressed.

She warned horse owners whose animals have white areas that while they might want to keep those areas clean because they show dirt and grime so easily, don’t overdo it. “You can easily irritate that skin” with some products made for whitening, she noted.

Rashmir said there are newer thoughts on skin allergies and insect bite hypersensitivities, which are the number-one skin issue worldwide.

Equine sarcoids

When it comes to treating equine sarcoids, Rashmir said that experts agree that it’s better to treat tumors when they are small than when they are large.

“Sarcoids are cancer,” she stressed. “You need to remove them, don’t ‘just monitor’ them. They will get bigger if they are not treated appropriately. Treat them aggressively and early, then make sure they are gone.”

Equine pythiosis

A skin issue most horse owners might not have heard of is equine pythiosis, said Rashmir. She said this disease usually was only seen in the southern areas, but “now there are cases in New Jersey and Michigan.”

According to information from Louisiana State University, equine pythiosis—commonly called swamp cancer—is becoming more prevalent in horses across the southern region. Pythiosis is a fungus-like infection that can affect the skin, bones, intestines, lungs and arteries of horses and other animals. It is caused by the organism Pythium insidiosum.

This episode was brought to you by Farnam, makers of Mare Plus, Grow Colt and Vita Plus – supplements for every age and stage. Visit farnam.com to learn more about vitamin and mineral supplements for your horse. Farnam, Your Partner in Horse Care.