Horses: Mane & Tail Hair Loss

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If your horse's mane and tail are falling out, it could take some sleuthing to determine the cause of this hair loss. Your vet can help you determine exactly what's causing the mane and tail issue, and treat your horse accordingly. Because hair and tail loss can indicate a serious underlying issue, call your vet as soon as you notice the problem.

Severe Itching

Horses in the throes of severe itching -- or pruritus -- may rub off significant amounts of their mail and/or tail, even if you're regularly applying fly spray. You'll probably notice the constant scratching, but must figure out the trigger. Possible culprits include:

  • Allergic dermatitis: Common allergens include gnats, fly and other insect bites, along with certain foods and particular vaccines.
  • Mange: Most likely to affect the mane and tail of draft or draft-cross horses.
  • Other parasite infestation.

Your vet may recommend a combination of treatments after examining your horse and possibly conducting skin scrapings. These include:

  • Using a flysheet, fly wraps for legs and a fly mask on your horse.
  • Stronger and more frequent fly-spraying.
  • Deworming and a change in deworming frequency or protocol.
  • Adding omega-3 fatty acid supplements to the diet.
  • Additional protein in the diet.
  • Bathing the affected areas with medicated shampoos.

Of course, if your horse is suffering from mange, your vet will recommend a series of lime-sulfur dips, along with oral medications to eradicate the mange mites. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, your horse may receive antibiotics.

Too Much Selenium

If your horse lives in an area where the soils are high in selenium, his mane and hair loss could result from selenium toxicity. While horses do need some of this trace mineral to stay healthy, excess selenium consumption from pastures initially causes mane and tail loss and a dull coat. If he continues to consume toxic amounts of selenium, his hooves become brittle, and may fall away from the coronet band. Your vet tests your horse's blood or hair to diagnose excess levels of selenium. Your horse must be removed from that particular pasture, and it may force you to move to a barn with normal selenium levels in the soils.

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