10 Common and Seasonal Health Problems Your Horse May Have

Horse itching

Horses can experience a number of health issues, so it's important to keep a close eye on them and look for symptoms. Here are 10 of the most common seasonal issues horses can have.


1. Sinus Infections

Sinus infections occur frequently when pollen is in the air but can also come on when your horse suffers from upper respiratory infection or other illnesses. Symptoms can include:[1]

  • Difficulty breathing
  • One nostril running, possibly with pus and/or blood
  • Eyes leaking
  • Puffy face around sinuses
  • Bad breath

2. Colic

Colic can overtake your horse due to parasites, nutrition, improper care or infection. Your horse may roll on the ground in an attempt to get rid of abdominal pain and cramping. Severe colic can lead to death, so it is imperative that you seek veterinary care if you believe your horse is suffering from colic. At EquiVet Care, our vets are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of mild and severe colic.[1]

3. Tying Up/Azoturia

External rhabdomyolysis (ER) is commonly known as tying up. It affects your horse’s muscles and can lead to progressive deterioration of muscles and kidneys as well as eventual heart disease. It tends to be hereditary, so you might have prior knowledge to prepare you. Dark urine the color of coffee is a sign your horse might be suffering from azoturia.[2][5]

4. Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is a disease of the endocrine system, specifically the pituitary gland. It can cause elevated hormone levels and reduce immune system effectiveness. It is now possible to treat equine Cushing’s disease. EquiVet Care can offer more information if you are worried that your horse might be at risk.[3]

5. Laminitis/Founder

Laminitis and founder are different words for the same disorder. Laminitis is used when your horse has an acute or quick onset attack. Founder would be used for laminitis that is chronic or over a long period of time and more extensive. This condition is usually related to food consumption but can also be connected to Cushing’s disease in your older horse. Surprisingly, it is your horse’s feet that will suffer most with laminitis or founder. It’s crucial to regularly check your horse’s hooves for signs of laminitis. These can include:[4]

  • Flat feet
  • Soles that are bruised
  • “Seedy toe,” a possible sign that your horse’s hooves are abscessed
  • An “Aladdin slipper” look about the hooves with irregular growth of your horses' heels

6. Thrush

Cleanliness is one of the best ways to keep your horse from coming down with thrush. It is important for your horse’s health to maintain a clean barn. Thrush is a fungus that affects your horse’s hooves. One of the first signs of thrush is a bad smell that you might notice when checking your horse’s feet. Thrush could cause leaking from the foot, infection and eventual lameness if not treated properly.[6]

7. Osteoarthritis

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but treatment and management are possible. Preventative steps can save your horse years of joint pain and swelling. Your horse may be suffering from osteoarthritis if it has limited range of motion, stiffness on cold days or otherwise unexplained lameness.[7]

8. Mud Fever

Mud fever is also called pasture dermatitis since it is caused by the muddy ground often found in pastures. Inflammation can be caused by infection setting in when your horse’s feet get soggy from standing in mud for hours on end. You might notice your horse seeming to be depressed and with low energy. Fever and loss of hair and appetite are also symptoms of mud fever.[8]

9. Sweet Itch

Sweet itch usually occurs seasonally with the onset of midges, or gnats, when the weather warms up. The midge’s saliva causes an allergic reaction in the horse and causes itching and infection from your horse rubbing itself so hard. Sweet itch can affect all parts of your horse’s skin as well as its eyes and airway.[9]

10. Bowed Tendon

Bowed tendons are usually due to injury from strain and improper shoes and conditioning. Once bowed tendon is diagnosed through ultrasound, your horse will need to take it slow for a while. Rest is the best treatment along with cold compresses and light bandaging. Medication and hydrotherapy can be used, depending on the severity of the tendon injury.[10]

Our approach to pet wellness at EquiVet Care is to offer your pets the best treatment we can in hopes of getting them back to their best health as soon as possible. If you are concerned about any of the above conditions, contact us at EquiVet Care to make an appointment for a virtual or in-person appointment for your horse.

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[1] https://equimed.com/diseases-and-conditions/reference/sinusitis

[2] https://wagwalking.com/horse/condition/tying-up

[3] https://www.cushings-disease.com/horses

[4] https://aaep.org/horsehealth/laminitis-prevention-treatment

[5] https://www.thevetexpert.com/18-most-common-horse-diseases-you-must-know-as-horse-owner

[6] https://wagwalking.com/horse/condition/thrush

[7] https://wagwalking.com/horse/condition/osteoarthritis-1

[8] https://wagwalking.com/horse/condition/mud-fever

[9] https://wagwalking.com/horse/condition/sweet-itch

[10] https://equimed.com/diseases-and-conditions/reference/bowed-tendons

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