Equine Health: Skin Condition Making Horses Turn Red

Last Updated on January 9, 2022

Skin problems in horses are very common, and many of us will notice spots or a rash on our horses at one time or another. Sometimes a skin condition can be responsible for making horses turn red, which can be very worrying. Let’s find out what the problem might be!

What Causes Skin Problems In Horses?

Horses can get many different skin problems, and finding the actual cause can sometimes be very difficult! So if your horses have a skin condition that is making them turn red, it may be tricky to find what is causing the problem.

Here are some of the most common causes of skin problems in horses:

  • Infectious skin problems – these can be viral, bacterial, or fungal
  • Parasitic skin problems, such as lice.
  • Allergen-related skin problems.
  • Trauma-related skin problems, such as grazes or burns.

You will often hear of skin problems in horses being referred to by other names, such as dermatitis. If the skin is very red, this is described as erythema, and if it is sore and swollen, it is described as inflamed.

How Are Skin Problems In Horses Diagnosed?

Getting a diagnosis for a condition that may turn horses’ skin red can be tricky. Redness of the skin is normally a sign of inflammation, and this can have many causes.

Your veterinarian will need as much information as possible to help diagnose a skin problem. This includes a full history, particularly any recent changes in your horses’ diet or routine. Something as simple as a different type of shampoo might be enough to make your horse’s skin turn red!

It may also be necessary to carry out laboratory tests to identify the cause of a skin problem. One of the most common tests is to take a sample of loose skin cells and hair, often called a skin scrape. This will be examined through the microscope to look for parasites and cultured to see if there are any infectious pathogens present.

If your veterinarian suspects that a systemic disease is causing your horse’s skin problem, it may also be necessary to take blood tests. Another diagnostic technique is to take a small sample of skin, called a biopsy, for a detailed cellular examination. If an allergic response is suspected, then allergen testing may be required.

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How Are Skin Problems In Horses Treated?

As well as being complicated to diagnose, skin problems in horses are not always easy to treat. Firstly the underlying cause of the condition must be treated; otherwise, it will recur again and again. For example, if your horse’s skin is red because of a different shampoo, it would not be a good idea to use that shampoo again!

The next step in treating a skin problem is to provide symptomatic treatment. Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatories to ease swelling and redness and antibiotics if there is any secondary infection.

Unfortunately, many skin conditions also need intensive nursing care! Some fungal infections thrive on warm, damp skin, so keeping the skin dry is vital to combat problems such as rain scald. Other skin problems may require the hair clipping away from the skin or regular bathing with a medicated shampoo.

One of the most important things to remember about treating skin problems in horses is that the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it will be. So, if you spot something on your horse’s skin you are unsure about, seek advice as soon as possible!

skin condition making horses turn red

What Skin Conditions Make Horses Turn Red?

The redness of the horses’ skin is due to inflammation. Inflammation occurs when cells become damaged or irritated, and an inflammatory response occurs. This is a natural part of the healing process, but with additional treatment, we can help the horse to heal faster and with less pain.

Any redness of the skin will normally be quite sore, and the skin could be swollen. It could be a problem that occurs all over the body or just in specific places.

If you are trying to identify a skin condition that is making horses turn red, then one of these may be responsible:

  • Dermatophilosis

Also known as rain scald, mud fever, or rain rot, this is an infection that thrives in moist, warm conditions. It is very common in rainy weather when the skin does not get a chance to dry out. Symptoms include red skin, hair loss, matted hair, and yellow pus.

  • Sweet Itch

This condition is caused by a hypersensitivity to midge bites. This makes the horse very itchy, and they will rub at their mane and tail until the hair falls out. You will see the redness of the skin around the top of the tail and under the mane.


This can occur when a horse has been in contact with an allergen or irritant such as certain types of bedding, fly sprays, tack cleaning products, and shampoos. Not all horses react to the same things, so what causes a reaction in one horse may be fine for another!

Read more about  Common Equine Skin Conditions

Conditions Which Make Horses Nose Turn Red

It is not uncommon for horses to get redness of the skin on their nose, but what might cause this? If your horse has pink skin on his nose, then he might have got sunburnt. This is particularly common in horses with liver disease, as they are very sensitive to sunlight.

Another possible cause for a red nose is that your horse has come into contact with something that has irritated the skin. This could be a plant or herb, such as buttercups, or a chemical compound.

Dechra Dermallay Oatmeal Shampoo


So, as we have learned, there are many reasons why a horse’s skin might appear red. If your horse appears sore or uncomfortable, it is vital to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. It may not be easy to find the reason why your horses’ skin is red, but your veterinarian will be able to make him more comfortable.

We’d love to hear your thoughts – does your horse frequently suffer from skin problems? Or do you have a great tip for how to soothe sore, reddened skin on horses? Leave a comment below, and we’ll get back to you!