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What is Hair Loss (Alopecia)?

Hair loss is not a disease, it is a symptom of an underlying ailment in your horse.  Alopecia is a good indication that you should have the horse seen by a veterinarian. Daily grooming of the horse is not only good for the maintenance of the horse but it also allows you to see first-hand if your equine companion has any skin issues or hair loss.  Most medical conditions have a much better prognoses when they are diagnosed and treated at the early stages of the disease.

Alopecia in horses is a condition where the horse loses his hair in patches, or over the entire  body. The underlying cause of alopecia needs to be diagnosed to help prevent further hair loss on the horse.

Hair Loss (Alopecia) Average Cost

From 510 quotes ranging from $650 - $1,500

Average Cost

$1,000

Symptoms of Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Horses

Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Patches of missing hair
  • Unusual amount of hair on grooming brush
  • Crusty matted hair
  • Thinning of hair
  • Horse is itchy
  • Flaky skin
  • Redness on skin
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Causes of Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Horses

  • Seasonal hair loss
  • Dermatophilosis (rain rot)
  • Dermatophytosis (ringworm)
  • Malnutrition
  • Allergies
  • Parasites
  • Fungal infection
  • Tight fitting saddle or halter
  • Auto-immune disease
  • Pregnancy or lactating
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Diagnosis of Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Horses

The veterinarian will go over the medical history of your horse and discuss any previous injuries or health ailments. He may ask to see vaccination, dental and deworming records.  The veterinarian will need to know when you first noticed the hair loss.  The horse’s diet may need to be reviewed. Let your veterinarian know if there has been any recent infestation of ticks, horseflies or gnats in the stalls. The veterinarian will then perform a full physical exam which  may include:

  • Listening to his heart, lungs and gastrointestinal tract with a stethoscope
  • Blood pressure
  • Weight
  • Hoof testing
  • Skin exam
  • Rectal exam
  • Check the color of the gums
  • Palpation of the limbs and muscles
  • Palpation of lymph nodes

Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Complete blood count - Checks the count of platelets, red and white blood cells; this helps determine if there is a bacterial infection or if the horse is anemic

  • Serum chemistry panel - This blood test checks on organ functions (kidneys, liver, blood protein and electrolytes)
  • Serum allergy test (SAT) -  If the veterinarian believes that the hair loss is due to allergy he will recommend this test; it aids in determining the allergens the horse may be allergic too

  • Fecal Exam - Can help diagnose parasites and if there is any blood in the feces
  • Urinalysis - Checks for kidney function, crystals, blood or bacteria in the urine

  • Skin scrape - Can check for parasites or fungal infections
  • Fungal cultures - Can help determine ringworm parasite

  • Blood smears can also help find parasites
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Treatment of Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Horses

The treatment of hair loss in the horse will depend on what the veterinarian diagnosed after the physical exam and the results of the diagnostic tests. If he determined that the hair loss is due to a seasonal hair loss there will not be a treatment plan; this a normal process horses go through.  Mares that have loss hair during pregnancy and lactation may be given supplements; usually this type of alopecia is temporary.

Dermatophilosis (rain rot)

Removal of any crusty scabs will help the skin heal.  The horse will need to be washed with an antimicrobial shampoo, and patted dry each time. If there is also a bacterial infection present, the horse will be prescribed antibiotics. 

Dermatophytosis (ringworm)

 

Gloves should be worn while handling the horse.  Ringworm is contagious to humans. It is usually treated with antibiotics, antifungal shampoo, iodine and miconazole creams.

Malnutrition

The horse will need to be on a balance diet and may also need vitamins and supplements.  If he was diagnosed as anemic he may also need B12 injections.

Allergies

The results of the serum allergy test, will determine what allergens the horse is allergic to.  Allergens may include mold, dust, pollen, insect bites, certain food, chemicals, vaccine and other medications. Treatment includes avoidance of the allergen, corticosteroids, antihistamines and allergy shots. 

Parasites

Deworming the horse will be necessary.  Stalls and pastures should be cleaned of manure.  Insecticides, removal of standing water, fly traps, and mesh screens installed in the stalls, can help control insects that transmit the parasite.  

Fungal infections

The infections are usually treated with a betadine wash down, antibiotics and topical creams.  It is best to wear gloves.

Tight fitting halters and saddles

Your horse will need to be refitted for the correct size saddle and halter.  The veterinarian may suggest a topical cream if the skin is irritated or inflamed.

Autoimmune Disease

Treatment will depend on the disease and organs affected. Many autoimmune diseases are treated with anti-inflammatory and corticosteroids medications.  Supplements may also be suggested. Your veterinarian will have a consultation with you and discuss what the best treatment plan is for your horse.

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Recovery of Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Horses

In most cases, following the treatment plan the horse will make full recovery.  Within weeks of the treatment his hair will usually grow back.  It will be necessary to have follow-up visits to monitor his progress.

Some diagnostic tests will need to be retaken to ensure a healthy recovery.  Horses diagnosed with an autoimmune disease will need to repeat visits to monitor his condition and to check if there are any side effects to the medications.

It is recommended, even if your horse appears healthy, he should be seen by a veterinarian once a year for a wellness check.

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Hair Loss (Alopecia) Average Cost

From 510 quotes ranging from $650 - $1,500

Average Cost

$1,000

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Hair Loss (Alopecia) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Gypsy, Flash, Bandit

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Paint

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20 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss Over Total Body

I have three paint horses, 2 tobanio (mother: 20 years old, son: 8 years old) and a 30 year old overo. It's hard to tell with the overo, but the two tobanios have lost most of their hair all over their bodies. I have to use a soft brush to brush them because they are getting sunburned. All are out on pasture and have been all summer. We have had an unusually hot muggy summer, so I was wondering, since all three of them were losing hair if it was because the temperatures have been soaring to over 100 degrees which, being in Canada, none of us are used to. There are no scabs, flakes, and the horses don't seem to be unusually itchy. They were stabled during the day and out at night. THANKS Eadie MacCarthy

Sept. 9, 2018

Gypsy, Flash, Bandit's Owner

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Annie

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Quarter Horse

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28 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Fever;
Fever; Weight Loss
Fever; Weight Loss, Lethargy
Fever; Weight Loss, Lethargy,
Fever; Weight Loss, Lethargy, Alopi

Our 27/8 year old mare suddenly lost alot of weight, showed signs of lethargy, and now has a cough. We've been giving 8 lbs of Equine Senior which has begun to help somewhat with the weight. She eats everything, feed, hay and pasture. But she is now losing her coat around the chest, inside of her back legs and still is lethargic. She moves around, but slowly and stiffly. Thought we were dealing w/an infection have been giving her Uniprim, which has removed fever which was 103-103.5, but this may be a temporary fix.

April 8, 2018

Annie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Annie should be seen by your veterinarian, and probably have some lab tests done, to assess her systemic function. Without seeing her, I can't determine what might be going on with her, but your veterinarian will be able to figure out what is going on with her.

April 9, 2018

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Holly

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Quarter Horse

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24 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

I have a 24 year old QH mare who is getting patches of baldness on her neck, face, and underbelly. She has never had this before, and this started about 5 - 6 weeks ago. She is still eating and drinking as usual. In conjunction with this, I have noted that she seems to be having stiffness in her neck when she bends down to eat. It goes away once she has started grazing. She has a lot of arthritis in her knees so I suspect there is now arthritis in her neck. Could these be related? I'm more concerned about the alopecia. The hair comes out in clumps with scabs attached to the bottom. It's like scurf that she gets on her cannon bones in the spring / summer. There is no change in housekeeping (their stalls are kept quite clean), no change in food or supplements. The other horse doesn't appear to have this affliction and they are always together.

Feb. 14, 2018

Holly's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, without seeing Holly, I can't diagnose what might be going on with her skin, or her neck. Bacterial or fungal infections are possible, as is arthritis. It would be best to have your veterinarian look at her, determine what might be going on, and recommend any appropriate therapy for her.

Feb. 14, 2018

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Tilly

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Thoroughbred

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20 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Hair

My mare (she is 20 yo) who wears a rug all the time lost lots of hair on the side of the shoulders in the last few weeks. For the rest she looks healthy and she is in great form.

Jan. 7, 2018

Tilly's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are various causes for a mare to lose hair in certain areas which include rubbing (her rug for example), allergies, parasites, hormonal conditions, infections among other causes; you should keep an eye on her to see if the bald patch increases in size or if there are signs of rubbing. Without examining her, I cannot give you any constructive advice. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 8, 2018

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Ethel

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Thoroughbred

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6

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

my horse has patches of bald skin all over flank and belly, been treated initially for ringworm but results from test have come back negtaive to any fungal infections. Her skin under the bald area has changed to a darker colour. She is 6yr old TB. this has progressively got worse and spread further over the past two year. Hair grows over in winter and hides areas but they are still there. Any suggestions ? could this be allergy to food, and would this change her actual skin pigment?

Oct. 14, 2017

Ethel's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It sounds like seasonal allergies which normally occur around the same time of year (autumn/fall), along with flank biting and kicking could also cause some discolouration of the skin. These types of suspected allergies can increase in severity year on year; I would recommend consulting a Dermatologist who may be able to advise you on common issues in your area; there is usually no quick or easy fix to this problem but may be managed depending on the underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 14, 2017

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Smoke

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Quarter Horse

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18 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Bald Patches On Flanks And Belly

Smoke retired to my 5 acres about 7 weeks ago. He’s losing his winter coat but in some spots his hair underneath looks almost bald. I’ve started changing feeds gradually recently because he choked on a senior beet-based food (he bolts his food). We had to tube him, & he started missing patches right after. I didn’t start the food change until 2 days after & have been doing it gradually. We also have a lot of oak and pine pollen here now, which he didn’t have where he lived before. He does have some crusty places between his front legs, & his previous owner said he itched there & at the base of his tail. I haven’t used any creams yet but have a sulfur based one. He’s a retired cow pony with a history of navicular disease. He’s turned out 24 hours and gets hay and about 6-7 lbs senior feed. I don’t ride him.

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Leah

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Missouri Fox Trotter

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13 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Bald Spot

I have a 13 year old Missouri Fox Trotter mare who suddenly has a bald spot on her left hip. It's not crusty just bald. She isn't scratching it at all. It's about 2 inches in width and 2 1/2 inches in length. I wormed all of my horses recently with bimectine gel; using this brand for the first time. She is prone to allergies to bug bites. I was wondering if it could be alopecia brought on by the dewormer brand? None of my other horses have anything like this.

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Solo

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Appaloosa X lusitano

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13 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Thin Coat And Complete Hair Loss

I have a 13 year old Lusitano X appaloosa gelding, I bred him and his mum and dad both had healthy coats. My gelding grows a very very thin winter coat with barely any hair on his face and then around June time each year he loses all of his coat from head to toe. The vets initially thought rainrot but not that, he doesn't itch or have any inflammation either. Have tried various coat supporting supplements to no avail. My vets seem to be stumped. He is happy in himself and I just protect him from the sun and flies in the summer with a fly rug. Any thoughts?

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Ivy

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Welsh

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss From Tail

Hi my pony tail has become really thin and just falls out from the bottom. There is one small patch on the tail but the hair over the top is smooth so I know she was not rubbing Vet did biopsy said alopecia areata! Won’t give steroids as worried in case of laminitis and prescibed a steriod spray They didn’t know an awful lot about this and I feel I’m in limbo at the moment. Is her tail lickely to grow back? Is our first year under saddle she was broke last may could stress have done this? Any supplement I could give her? Ger skin, coat and hooves are excellent. Any advice would be hugely appreciated.

Hair Loss (Alopecia) Average Cost

From 510 quotes ranging from $650 - $1,500

Average Cost

$1,000

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