How to Treat a Horse with Dandruff

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If your horse has skin flakes on his body, it's easy enough to get rid of them temporarily. It's more important to find out the reason for the flaky skin and address that issue. Equine dandruff is formally known as seborrhea, and the skin particles are either dry or oily.

Tip

  • The hot-blooded breeds with thinner skin, such as Arabian and thoroughbreds, are more likely to suffer from seborrhea.

Dandruff Causes

The primary causes of equine seborrhea include:

  • lack of fatty acids in the diet
  • intestinal parasites -- worms -- that affect the nutrients the horse receives
  • Insect bites or allergies. 

Basic Treatment

Rid your horse of dry dandruff at least temporarily by using a sulfur-based shampoo. Your vet can recommend a product, or you can purchase an over-the-counter shampoo labeled for use in horses and dogs. A once or twice weekly shampoo until the issue is under control should suffice.

If your horse has oily seborrhea, ask your vet about the best shampoo product. She might suggest a shampoo containing benzoyl peroxide or tar, and will tell you how often to bathe your horse. Animals with oily seborrhea may develop crusts in the affected areas, which often include the elbows and hocks. Your vet may recommend an ointment to help dry up the crusts.

Tip

  • If your horse is severely affected by seborrhea, your vet may recommend drawing blood or performing other tests to get to the bottom of what's ailing him.

Dandruff Prevention

It's not always possible to prevent dandruff, especially in breeds prone to the condition. Still, there are ways to keep it at a minimum, and many of them are simply good horse husbandry practices.

  • Groom your horse regularly and thoroughly -- daily, if possible.
  • Deworm your horse on a schedule recommended by your vet.
  • Supplement his diet with biotin, flaxseed or commercial skin and coat products. Ask your vet about the best supplements for your horse.
  • During fly season, spray him regularly with fly repellent. If he'll keep them on, use fly wraps on his legs and/or a protective fly sheet and mask.

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