Help! My horse is itchy and I don’t know why. What should I do?


Itchiness, also called pruritus, can lead to hair loss and skin damage as your horse rubs to provide some relief. Many skin conditions are frustratingly difficult to treat without the advice of a veterinarian. If your horse is itchy, the first thing you should do is call your vet.

Unlike humans, food allergies are relatively uncommon in horses, but many horses can develop allergies to their environment. In some parts of Australia, horses can also have adverse reactions to the bite of some insects. Diagnosis with the support of a veterinarian is recommended.

Diagnosing Skin Conditions

Itchiness is a symptom of many parasites, infections and allergies, so identifying the cause is the first step in developing an effective treatment plan. Your horse may bite, rub or lick the itchy area to alleviate the sensation, but prompt action is best to prevent long-term skin damage.

Your veterinarian will conduct a skin history and physical examination, which may involve a skin biopsy for further testing. If the cause of the itching requires longer term investigation, your horse may be prescribed anti-itching medications, such as antihistamines or corticosteroids.

Treating Skin Conditions

While some skin conditions are easy to identify by visual assessment alone, at times, correctly diagnosing the cause of the itching requires a process of elimination. Over a period of time, you and your vet will determine if parasites, insects, seasonal or food allergies are to blame.

Preventative health care can also play a role in reducing or even stopping itching. Regular insect control during warm seasons and de-worming throughout the year can successfully control the number of parasites affecting your horse.


  • Dr Louise Cosgrove

    The founder of Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, Louise is driven to support horses in their recovery from injury or illness. A graduate of the University of Queensland, with international equin...

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