You are currently viewing The 10 Most Common Horse Diseases

The 10 Most Common Horse Diseases

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Welcome back to our channel! In this article, we will be discussing the top 10 most common horse diseases that you should be aware of. By learning about these diseases, you will be able to recognize the signs and symptoms, and seek proper treatment for your horse. We will cover diseases such as laminitis, rain scald, mud fever, poisoning, sweet itch, strangles, kissing spines, equine asthma, Cushing’s disease, and colic.

It is important to note that prevention is always better than cure, and seeking veterinary advice is crucial if you suspect that your horse may be sick. We hope that by the end of this article, you will be well-informed and able to take the necessary steps to ensure the health and well-being of your horse.

Key Takeaways

  • Learning about common horse diseases can help you recognize signs and symptoms early on.
  • Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to horse diseases.
  • Seeking veterinary advice is crucial if you suspect that your horse may be sick.


Laminitis is a common horse disease that affects the foot of the horse. In this section, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this condition.


Laminitis is caused by the failure or damage of the laminae in a horse’s foot. The laminae is a part of the hoof that holds the pedal bone in place. When the laminae breaks down, the pedal bone of the horse’s foot can rotate or sink, causing pain and discomfort. Laminitis is most commonly seen in ponies who are overweight, but it can also affect horses of any breed or size.


The signs of laminitis can vary, but some common symptoms include:

  • Laying more than one foot
  • Fat pads
  • Dull coat
  • Decreased performance
  • Delayed shedding
  • Lethargic look
  • Sunken back
  • Standing with front feet out in front of them, leaning on their heels
  • Strangely shaped feet with long dish toes and high heels


Laminitis is an extremely painful condition, and there is no long-term cure. However, there are some treatments that can help alleviate the symptoms and manage the condition. Treatment options include:

  • Removing the horse from the cause of the condition, such as a high-carbohydrate diet or over-exertion
  • Providing pain relief medication
  • Applying supportive hoof boots or pads to reduce pressure on the foot
  • Providing a soft and comfortable environment for the horse to rest in
  • Consulting with a veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment for the specific case.

In conclusion, laminitis is a serious condition that can cause significant pain and discomfort for horses. It is important to be aware of the causes and symptoms of this condition and to seek professional help if you suspect your horse may be suffering from laminitis.

Rain Scald

Rain Scald is a common horse disease caused by bacteria that can affect the top of your horse’s body. In this section, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this disease.


Rain Scald occurs due to prolonged wetting of the skin, which softens the skin and allows bacteria to enter and thrive. It is most commonly seen in horses during the winter season.


The symptoms of Rain Scald include hair loss followed by crusting and scabbing. The horse’s skin is softened, allowing the bacteria to enter and thrive, leading to the formation of scabs.


Preventing further wetting will ensure that new scabs don’t form. Cleaning the infected area with dilute warm chlorohexadine mix and some additional anti-inflammatory creams can help treat the condition. If necessary, antibiotics or anti-inflammatories may be required. It is important to consult a veterinarian for proper treatment.

In conclusion, Rain Scald is a painful condition that can be treated with proper care and attention. By following the causes, symptoms, and treatment guidelines, you can help your horse recover from this disease.

Mud Fever

Mud fever is a condition caused by the same bacteria as rain scald. The bacteria enter the skin on the legs due to prolonged time in wet and muddy conditions. This results in scabbing which peels off to leave red sores underneath.


Mud fever is caused by prolonged exposure to wet and muddy conditions. The bacteria enter the skin through small cuts, scratches or abrasions on the legs. Horses with feathered legs are more prone to mud fever as the feathers trap moisture against the skin.


Symptoms of mud fever include scabs and sores on the legs, swelling, heat, and pain. Horses may be lame and reluctant to move. The sores can be painful and itchy, causing the horse to rub or bite the affected area. In severe cases, the skin may become infected, leading to cellulitis or lymphangitis.


Treatment involves removing the horse from wet and muddy conditions and keeping them indoors until the sores have healed. Gentle exercise in a dry area can help with limb swelling and is very important. Sand can be quite painful to open sores, so exercising in a sand arena should be avoided until the sores have healed.

In the early stages, topical treatment involves the use of shampoos and creams. In more severe cases, antibiotics or anti-inflammatories are required. It is important to keep the affected area clean and dry, and to apply a barrier cream to protect the skin from further moisture. Regular grooming can also help prevent mud fever by removing dirt and debris from the legs.


Poisoning is a serious issue that can affect horses in many ways. There are various causes of poisoning, including plants, human intervention, and medical issues. In this section, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of poisoning in horses.


There are many different ways a horse can be poisoned. Poisoning can occur from plants such as lupines, acorns, sycamore seeds, and the most well-known one, ragwort. Horses can also be poisoned by humans, for example, rat poison left lying around, or medically, such as from blood poisoning.


Symptoms of a poisoned horse include diarrhea, constipation, depression, colic, restlessness, breathing difficulties, high temperature, blindness, collapse, tremors, and loss of appetite.


Prevention is much better than cure when it comes to poisoning. You can prevent plant poison by checking your fields regularly for acorns, sycamore seeds, ragwort, lupines, and other poisonous plants. If you don’t know if a plant you have near your horses is poisonous or not, block off the area with electric tape until you ask a vet, gardener, or search it on the internet.


If you suspect that your horse is being poisoned, you need to stay calm but act quickly. Remove your horse from the source of the poison and call your vet immediately. Tell them when, where, and how the poisoning occurred. If needed, collect a sample of the source of the poison in a plastic bag to give to your vet to analyze. Follow your vet’s advice for the treatment extremely carefully. Remember, prevention is key when it comes to poisoning, so always be vigilant and aware of your horse’s surroundings.

Sweet Itch

Sweet itch, also known as summer eczema, is a common skin condition in horses caused by an allergic reaction to the bites of midges. The condition is characterized by intense itching, hair loss, and skin lesions. In this section, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of sweet itch.


Sweet itch is caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva of midges. Female midges feed on the blood of horses and leave behind saliva that contains proteins that can trigger an allergic reaction in some horses. The severity of the reaction can vary from horse to horse, with some horses being more sensitive than others.


The symptoms of sweet itch include intense itching, hair loss, and skin lesions. The itching is most severe on the mane, tail, and withers, but can also affect other parts of the body. The horse may rub, bite, or scratch the affected areas, leading to further hair loss and skin damage. In severe cases, the skin may become thickened and crusty, and the horse may develop secondary bacterial infections.


There is no cure for sweet itch, but there are several treatments that can help manage the symptoms. The first step is to reduce the horse’s exposure to midges by using fly sheets, fly masks, and insect repellents. Keeping the horse indoors during midge activity can also help. In addition, antihistamines and corticosteroids can be used to reduce the allergic reaction and relieve itching.

Topical treatments such as shampoos, creams, and ointments can also be used to soothe the skin and promote healing. These may contain ingredients such as aloe vera, tea tree oil, and chamomile. In severe cases, antibiotics may be needed to treat secondary bacterial infections.

In conclusion, sweet itch is a common skin condition in horses caused by an allergic reaction to midge bites. The symptoms include intense itching, hair loss, and skin lesions. While there is no cure for sweet itch, there are several treatments available to manage the symptoms and improve the horse’s quality of life. By reducing the horse’s exposure to midges and using appropriate treatments, we can help our horses stay comfortable and healthy.



Strangles is a respiratory infection caused by bacteria that can be highly contagious among horses. The bacteria that causes strangles is called Streptococcus equi. The infection spreads through direct contact with an infected horse or by sharing feed and water troughs, brushes, and other equipment. The bacteria can also survive in the environment for several weeks, making it important to practice good biosecurity measures.


Symptoms of strangles include depression, loss of appetite, difficulty eating, raised temperature, cough, thick yellow discharge coming out of the nostrils, swollen lymph nodes around the throat, and pus coming out of these lymph nodes. The lymph nodes can become so swollen that they can restrict the horse’s breathing, which is why the disease is called “strangles.”


Treatment for strangles involves completely isolating the horse so there’s no further contamination. Most horses will recover on their own, but in severe cases, antibiotics are required. It’s important to work with a veterinarian to manage the infection and prevent it from spreading to other horses. Isolation and quarantine procedures should be followed for several weeks after the horse has recovered to ensure that the bacteria is no longer present. Good hygiene practices, such as washing hands and disinfecting equipment, can help prevent the spread of strangles.

Kissing Spines


Kissing spines is a condition that affects a horse’s vertebrae and spine. It occurs when the spinous processes, which are the bony projections on the horse’s spine, touch or rub against each other causing pain and discomfort. This is often caused by poor fitting saddles or improper training that leads to the horse’s head being up, back hollow, and not engaging its core muscles.


The symptoms of kissing spines include bucking, rearing, bolting, kicking, shying, head tossing, anxiety, irritability when being groomed, reluctance to roll or lie down, refusing to move forward or jump, reluctance to canter, difficulty being mounted, and refusing to go on the bit.


Treatment for kissing spines involves physical therapy to strengthen the back muscles and getting the saddle fitted properly. This may include using a saddle pad with shock-absorbing properties or a special saddle that distributes weight evenly. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove some of the affected vertebrae.

In addition to these treatments, it is important to address any underlying causes of the condition, such as poor training or improper saddle fitting. This may involve working with a trainer or equine specialist to develop a training plan that engages the horse’s core muscles and encourages proper posture.

Overall, with proper treatment and management, horses with kissing spines can lead healthy and active lives. It is important to work closely with a veterinarian and equine specialist to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your horse’s individual needs.

Equine Asthma


Equine asthma is caused by poor air quality, which is often filled with dust and dirt. This can lead to inflammation in the respiratory system, making it difficult for the horse to breathe. Horses that are stabled for long periods of time are at a higher risk of developing equine asthma, as are horses that are kept in poorly ventilated areas.


The symptoms of equine asthma include breathlessness, wheezing, coughing, nasal discharge, and in severe cases, struggling to breathe at all. Horses with equine asthma may also experience a loss of appetite and become lethargic.


The first step in treating equine asthma is to remove all triggering factors through environmental modification. This may involve improving ventilation in the horse’s living area and reducing dust and other irritants in the air. Corticosteroid therapy can also be used to address the inflammation in the lungs, and bronchodilators may be necessary for fast relief of bronchospasm. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required. It is important to work closely with a veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to the individual horse’s needs.

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s Disease, also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), is a medical condition that affects horses and ponies over the age of 10. The disease is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland, which produces excessive hormones that affect the horse’s metabolism and immune system.


The exact cause of Cushing’s Disease is not known, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Horses and ponies over the age of 10 are more susceptible to the disease, and certain breeds, such as ponies and Morgans, are more prone to developing it.


Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease include increased coat length, delayed winter shedding, excessive sweating, weight loss, laminitis, and increased thirst and urination. Horses with Cushing’s Disease may also have a dull coat, lethargy, and decreased performance.


There is no cure for Cushing’s Disease, but treatment can help manage the symptoms. The most common treatment is the drug pergolide, which helps regulate the hormones produced by the pituitary gland. Horses with Cushing’s Disease also require a specialized diet and exercise program to help manage their weight and prevent laminitis.

In severe cases, horses with Cushing’s Disease may require additional treatment, such as antibiotics for infections or surgery to remove the tumor. It is important to work closely with a veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to the individual horse’s needs.


Colic is a severe abdominal pain that can be caused by various factors. As horse owners, it’s important to recognize the causes, symptoms, and treatment of colic to ensure the well-being of our equine friends.

What to do if your Horse is Colicking?


There are many factors that can cause colic in horses, including:

  • Obesity
  • Sudden change in dietary routine
  • Worms
  • Sand ingestion
  • Stress
  • Dental problems
  • Long-term use of NSAIDs

It’s important to monitor your horse’s diet and environment to prevent colic from occurring.


Symptoms of colic in horses can include:

  • Pawing at the stomach
  • Bloating
  • Sweating
  • Rolling
  • Distress
  • Loss of appetite or need for water
  • Peculiar positions such as sitting and stretching
  • Absence of gut sounds

If you suspect colic in your horse, it’s crucial to call your vet immediately.


While waiting for your vet to arrive, it’s important to monitor your horse’s vitals, remove all food, and let your horse rest. Do not walk your horse unless he is rolling and a danger to people. Do not administer any medication without the attention of a vet.

Treatment for colic will depend on the severity and cause of the condition. Your vet may recommend medication, surgery, or other forms of treatment.

Remember, recognizing the signs of colic and seeking immediate veterinary attention can save your horse’s life.

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc, or its affiliates.

Jasmine Clark

Hey there, I'm Jasmine! I'm a total horse fanatic and have been working with these amazing animals for as long as I can remember. I'm passionate about sharing my love for horses with others and helping them learn more about these majestic creatures. As a professional horse trainer and riding instructor, I've developed a deep understanding of equine science and am committed to the welfare of horses. That's why I founded, a blog where I share my knowledge and insights with fellow horse enthusiasts. I love connecting with my readers and building a friendly community of horse lovers. Whether you're a seasoned equestrian or just starting out, I'm here to help and inspire you. Above all, I'm a friendly and compassionate person who truly cares about the well-being of horses and their human companions.