three horsesImage Credit WolfBlur / Pixabay

How to Treat Ringworm in Horses: A Quick Guide to At-Home Treatment

You’ve noticed something a little off with your horse’s coat. There are patches of lost hair and you’re seeing scabs and crusty skin. The area doesn’t appear to be itchy or inflamed, and your horse seems to feel just fine. While it may look like something is seriously wrong with your horse, it may just have a case of ringworm. Don’t worry, it's a lot easier to treat than you think. Look at how you can treat ringworm in horses from home!

What Is Ringworm?

Ringworm is a rash caused by a fungal infection. There are many kinds of fungus that cause a ringworm infection, but the fungi that affect horses and other animals are called Microsporum and Trichophyton. Ringworm can live for months on things like fences, stall walls, or tack. Outbreaks are common because ringworm easily spreads from horse to horse. It's difficult to spot infection in horses, because ringworm may not cause symptoms until the fungus has developed into a larger infection. Horses with ringworm are highly contagious, so it’s best to treat your horse for ringworm as soon as possible. Symptoms of ringworm on horses include:

  • Crusty, scabby skin
  • Hairless patches
  • Lesions on the face, neck, shoulders, or girth

horses treatment
Image Credit: BLM Nevada / flickr

Call Your Veterinarian ASAP

Ringworm in horses isn’t an emergency, but it’s essential that your vet knows about your horse's ringworm infection. They need to diagnose whether the infection is local or has spread throughout the body. 

Your veterinarian will want to know if you have any other animals with ringworm, or if your horse has come into contact with other horses outside of your property. Plus, keeping your vet updated allows them to determine what kind of treatment is appropriate for your horse’s individual needs.

Start By Removing Hair From the Infected Area

In fact, the more hair you remove, the better. The fungus that causes ringworm in horses feeds off of keratin, which is one of the key components that make up hair. When you remove as much hair as possible, it’s likely your horse’s ringworm infection will heal faster. Just be sure to use clean electric clippers and a surgical blade to cut hair. Extend the shaved area at least a half-inch around the infected area.

Besides removing hair, it’s important that you remove all debris, scurfy skin (skin peeling because of being damaged from infection), and as many scabs as possible. This works even better when you apply a high-quality, veterinarian-grade treatment to the ringworm infection.

Clean the Area

Keeping the area clean is critical to helping your horse heal from its ringworm infection. This means using treatment shampoos that can be left on for up to an hour at a time and spot cleaning lesions regularly. Here is a great way to spot-bathe your horse:

  • Wet the shaved area and apply antifungal treatment
  • Let the treatment sit for about 10 minutes
  • Rinse once
  • Rinse again using 2 tablespoons of white vinegar in 1 quart of water using a sponge or spray bottle
  • Blow-dry or towel dry the area

Keep the Infected Area Dry

Remember that fungus thrives in dark, wet environments. So, always be sure to keep your horse's ringworm infection dry and expose it to sunlight to help kill the fungus. When your horse becomes dirty or wet, have disinfected grooming tools ready to clean them and their living quarters. Whenever possible, don’t blanket your horse. If you need to use a horse blanket, make sure it’s not one that’s shared with other horses.

Don’t Forget About Yourself

When your horse is in pain or uncomfortable, you want to do everything you can to make it feel better. One of the easiest ways to keep you and your horse ringworm-free is by remembering to disinfect yourself and your property. Don’t forget how highly contagious ringworm is, and that it can easily spread to other livestock, house pets, and even you. 

Always put clipped hair and grooming debris in a tightly sealed plastic garbage bag, clean all tack and equipment with a disinfectant concentrate like Lysol, launder your clothes after interacting with your horse, bath pets constantly, and check yourself, family members, and pets once a week for signs of ringworm for at least the next three weeks.

Prevent and Control Future Infections

You can prevent future ringworm spreading to other livestock and horses if you isolate new horses for about 2-3 weeks. That way, you can closely monitor your horse for subtle signs of ringworm, like a possible cough, small lesions, and scabs. Always make sure each infected horse has its own grooming kit and try your best to handle horses with ringworm very last. 

Be Patient With Your Horse and Get Help If Ringworm Won’t Go Away

It can take up to two weeks for ringworm in horses to heal, and once you treat your horse, you should see improvement quickly. A good way to know if ringworm is clearing up is by checking to see if new hair is coming back to the infected area. If the infection spreads or it just won’t go away, contact your veterinarian.