Bacterial Hair Follicle Infection in Horses

February 7, 2011 (published)

Today on Texas Vet News I am going to talk about an infection of the hair follicles called bacterial folliculitis. This condition commonly occurs on the sides of the horse's neck and under the saddle. It resembles small areas of crusted hair that has been called sweat spots. The crusted hair is actually areas of infection that lead to hair loss, commonly seen in round circles. Hair loss in round circles always makes you think of ringworm and this is certainly a concern. If the horse has small circular areas of hair loss, the horse should always be checked for ringworm by having your veterinarian take samples for culture. Dermatophilus is another skin infection that can cause crusts, and this condition can be diagnosed by your veterinarian under the microscope. If there is still a concern about the diagnosis, a skin biopsy should be performed to make certain of the disease. If all of these tests are negative, the most likely disease is bacterial infection of the hair follicles.

Cases that are related to sweat and abrasion with tack are best managed by daily cleaning of the skin immediately after exercise. It is a good idea to use an antibacterial shampoo containing chlorhexidine as this is a good antibacterial agent and it works in the presence of organic matter whereas iodine-based shampoos do not. Cases of bacterial folliculitis around the ergot and fetlock require clipping the hair; applying a topical antibiotic cortisone cream is helpful. Cases involving skin infection under the saddle can be very difficult to heal and prevent from recurring. Some folks use a cotton sheet under the saddle that is washed or changed daily to help prevent infection.

Hear the audio of this program at the Texas Farm Bureau Network.

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