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Equine Diseases

Equine Photosensitisation

  • Equine Photosensitisation is a painful skin condition, apparent after too much exposure to sun or sunlight.  There are two kinds of Equine Photosensitisation, one caused by a reaction to something your horse has eaten and the second form of Equine Photosensitisation stems from an under-performing liver. Equine Photosensitisation manifests itself as flaky crusty dried skin which sometimes dies off and sloughs away.  Equine Photosensitisation is apparent very shortly after exposure to strong sun. Areas such as ears, face and muzzle are more susceptible to equine photosensitisation.  If horses are lighter skinned, other areas such as eyelids, tail and vulva can also be vulnerable to Equine Photosensitisation.   Recovery from Equine Photosensitisation can be a prolonged affair depending on the depth of the damage. 

Symptoms of Equine Photosensitisation

  • Scratching and/or rubbing the ears, eyelids and muzzle.
  • Flaky skin
  • Scab formation
  • Skin lesions
  • Watery eyes
  • Swollen blistered and red skin
  • Blisters oozing pus

Causes of Equine Photosensitisation

  • Exposure to strong sun or sunlight
  • Reaction to something the horse has eaten such as plant or fungal products, drugs or chemicals
  • Liver problems caused by ingestion of some poisonous plants such as St John’s Wort, Clovers, Buckwheat, and Perennial Ryegrass lead to Equine Photosensitisation
  • Lightly  pigmented skin  

Diagnosis/Treatment of Equine Photosensitisation

Call your vet for a proper diagnosis of Equine Photosensitisation via skin biopsy and blood tests.  Some or all of the following courses of action will be prescribed.

  • Moving the horse immediately  from the pasture or feed suspected of causing Equine Photosensitisation
  • Housing the horse in a darkened stable until Equine Photosensitisation is cured
  • Ensuring freedom  from insects
  • Cleaning the affected areas regularly and gently with lukewarm water, antibacterial soap and cotton wool, even if the skin is very sore
  • Drying the affected areas thoroughly
  • Applying mild soothing healing ointments for mild cases of Equine Photosensitisation
  • Applying antibiotic ointment for more severe cases of Equine Photosensitisation  
  • Administration of corticosteroids
  • Administration of antibiotic injections
  • Keeping dust levels to a minimum by soaking  the horse’s  hay



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