Q: My mare has dry skin and is constantly scratching. I’ve tried coconut oil, tea tree oil, and a cortisone injection from the vet but nothing seems to help. What else can I try?
A: Before you try another cream or ointment it is very important to find out what the reason is for the dry skin so that you can treat the underlying condition rather than only the symptoms. Causes of dry and itchy skin can be several things such as infection (bacterial, fungal, or mites), immune-mediated (allergies from food, environment, bedding, or tack), or caused by a systemic disease (liver or hormonal problem).
A more precise diagnosis of a skin problem requires you to consult a specialist in this area, such as an equine internal medicine specialist. They will ask you a lot of questions, such as how long the problem has been present, if it is generalised or localised to a specific area, if you’ve changed the diet or environment of the horse, as well as what type of bedding you use. Based on the answers the vet will have an idea about the condition and will decide to perform further diagnostics, like taking a small biopsy of the skin for microscopic examination or making a sample for bacterial and fungal culture. Based on these results a more precise diagnosis of the underlying problem can be made and the proper treatment can be started.
Answered by ESI specialist Ellen Compagnie, veterinarian, and equine surgeon