What creates hair loss on horse faces?

 

What causes hair loss on horse faces and around the eyes? Well, this may be the biggest can of worms ever. In a nutshell, it’s time to rule a bunch of stuff out and enlist the help of your veterinarian to get to the root cause of this hair loss on your horse’s face.

 

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red horse with hair loss around the eyes

Hair loss can also happen during the winter months.

 

Reasons why your horse may have some hair loss on their face and around their eyes:

 

  • Your horse is sensitive to bugs and insect bites. Some bugs, like midges (AKA no see-ums), can create sweet itch on the face and dorsal side of your horse’s body. Sweet itch is an allergic reaction that can spiral sideways pretty quickly. A horse with sweet itch often has such terrible pruritus (itchiness) that they create sores trying to relieve the problem.

 

  • Sensitivity to heat. Does this mean that hair melts off? No, but heat and humidity can certainly combine with other factors contributing to hair loss.

 

  • The sun is too harsh and your horse has hypersensitivity to UV rays. It may just be some pink skin under the hair, or your horse can have full-blown photosensitivity where blisters form. This is a unique situation where a food or digestive problem makes the horse’s body react wildly to sunlight. 

 

  • Sensitivity to fly spray. There are dozens upon dozens of formulations of fly spray, you could try another brand. Or, use fly masks. 

 

  • Is your horse shampoo too harsh for their skin? Avoid detergents and harsh products.

 

  • These sensitivities almost always cause itching, which causes rubbing and hair loss. It’s also possible that your horse is the “perfect storm” and many things trigger hair loss. 

 

  • Other, more rare things, would include skin cancer.

 

  • Your horse’s diet is also important to their skin and coat health, and nutritional deficiencies, especially with Omega-3 fatty acids, contribute to a horse’s skin problems.

 

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More reasons your horse has hair loss on their face

 

  • Allergies. There are so many possible allergens for horses – the air, grasses, diet, insects, and products are all common allergic triggers. 

 

  • Lice, although this is more common in winter as lice don’t like warm temperatures.  You may be able to see lice in the mane and tail. 

 

  • Fungal and bacterial infections.  Horses can develop skin issues from the fungi and bacteria that live in your horse’s environment.  Sometimes those skin infections cause hair loss. 

 

  • Ringworm – This is a fungal infection. It’s also contagious to other horses, and to you.  

 

  • Onchocerciasis, which is a worm infection and sounds gross.

 

  • Eye infections. Remember – eyes don’t grow back, so take this seriously!

 

 

chestnut horse with mild hair loss around the face

Hair loss can happen near eyes, across cheeks, and sometimes around the bridle areas.

 

How does your veterinarian diagnose the cause of hair loss?

 

  • Your vet is obviously the top source for information and diagnostics of skin diseases in horses. To start, your vet needs to do a complete physical examination. This helps your vet determine how much of your horse has alopecia, which is a fancy way of saying hair loss.

 

  • During the physical exam, your vet will examine the affected area of your horse’s skin and look for any hair growth problems, and areas of itching. Prepare to answer some of your vet’s questions, such as:
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    • Is it just a hair problem, or is the skin showing signs of inflammation, scratching, peeling, or crusting?
    • Does the hair loss line up with tack or halters or fly sheets?
    • When did the hair loss on the face start? Is it spreading?
    • Are there any other findings from the whole horse exam and what do you know about them?

 

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  • Many skin conditions in horses are pretty obvious to your vet, but some may need further testing. Skin biopsies take a portion of your horse’s skin for analysis in a lab. This dermatohistopathology looks at the layers of skin, including hair follicles, to narrow down causes of the skin lesions and crusts, if there are any.

 

  • Another test your vet may perform is a skin scraping. This involves your vet shaving off some of the skin layers to look for external parasites, like mites or other parasitic infections, that caused the acquired hair loss.

 

  • Your horse’s vet also needs to look at the big picture and will probably ask if other horses are affected by similar conditions. Ringworm, a fungal infection, is contagious to herd mates and people.

How do you treat hair loss on a horse’s face?

 

  • Because horse grooming is horse health care, it’s up to you to notice areas of skin that show problems. If the hair loss is around the face and ears, try and narrow down possibilities – starting with your grooming and tack habits.

 

  • Are you grooming regularly with clean brushes that are not shared with other horses? Is your horse’s skin itchy as you groom? Are any bald patches a result of normal shedding or could they be something else? Have you switched products lately?

 

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Flax is a fantastic and tasty source of Omega-3 fatty acids for horses.

 

Things for you to do:

 

    • Clean your horse’s brushes frequently.
    • Don’t share your horse’s brushes with other horses.
    • Groom regularly, and make it a good one.
    • Remove fly gear, fly masks, blankets, sheets, and anything your horse wears daily to look for rubs and irritations.
    • Keep your horse’s fly gear and blankets clean.
    • Talk to your vet about any new issues.
    • Patch test any new products or fly spray on your horse before going hog-wild and using them all over their body.
    • Try a soothing shampoo. 
    • Add an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement to your horse’s diet.

 

  • And, this could just be the tip of the iceberg. It’s always best to involve your veterinarian to determine the cause of this hair loss.

 

  • While waiting for lab results to come back, be diligent about using a fly mask and ensure you are on top of bug control.

 

  • Even if you are diligent about not using fly sprays on your horse’s face, products and fly sprays on the legs transfer to the face with rubbing.  If you suspect a facial reaction to fly spray, try fly boots instead of spray for the front legs.

 

  • You can also try a fatty acid-based fly spray for your horse if you think the chemical or oil-based fly sprays are irritating. These are not applied to your horse’s face, which can help the skin heal.

 

 

 

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Stock up here for your horse supplies to help hair loss on horse faces! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, but it’s ZERO extra cents to you.  You can also visit my Amazon storefront here:  PEG storefront.

Big Hoss - Outlaw Nutrition

Omega 3's plus gut health support in a delicious cold milled flax formula. It's delicious and it will turn your horse's coat into a mirror.

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SHAPLEY'S Medi-Care Med Shampoo W/Tea Tree & Lemon Grass, 32 oz
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The best shampoo for shine and soothing.

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Fly Whisk
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For *mostly* bug free riding

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Cashel Quiet Ride Horse Fly Mask with Long Nose and Ears
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This style is great for riding!

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Thank you!