How to do a patch test for horses of grooming products


Some horses can have anything and everything put on their skin and bellies without reactions. Other horses, not so much. Any topical product can create a response in the skin and should not be used anymore. The patch test for horses is one way to test your horse’s sensitivity to new products.


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Anyone who has ever *gasp* box-dyed their hair may recall something about patch testing in the instructions. 


What types of products to patch test


  • Don’t rely on a product’s “strength” or potency to determine the possibility of a reaction. The harshest fly sprays may elicit a reaction just as easily as the most “natural” and mild grooming sprays. 


  • New shampoos, sprays, fly sprays, or over-the-counter treatments and potions may create a response in your horse’s skin. Even prescription medications can trigger a reaction.


  • If you know your horse is particularly sensitive, you may start to see a pattern. Narrowing down any irritating individual ingredients can help your future shopping endeavors.


How to do the patch test


  • A patch test has never been more straightforward. Use a few fingertips coated with the new product, and apply to your horse’s skin on the upper front legs, near the softer skin around the elbow.  


  • And then let it be.  


After 24 hours, inspect the area


  • A day later, check the area for:
    • Swelling
    • Hair loss
    • Redness – you probably won’t notice this without hair loss
    • Heat
    • Itching
    • Flaky skin
    • Or anything that doesn’t match the surrounding skin. 

If nothing is irritated, the product is likely safe for your horse. If you do see a reaction, time to go shopping again!


What to do if there is a reaction


  • Your response to any reaction will undoubtedly depend on the severity of the irritation. Sometimes you can rinse any residual product away and let the area heal itself. 


  • When the skin is red and inflammed, with or without hair loss, rinse off any product first. You might find the irritation is more like a wound and could benefit from saline, chlorhexidine, or betadine cleaning. Then treat topically. 


  • If the skin is damaged and/or the surrounding areas show hives or the reaction spreads, reach out to your vet for guidance. Sometimes an oral medication can help clear things up. 


  • Luckily, most topical irritations are minor and quickly resolved. And it never hurts to err on the side of caution when it comes to your horse. 


patch test location near the elbow on the inner and upper front leg


For more on horse skin conditions, this article has you covered.  



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