Friday, 23 December 2016

All About ... Sunburn & Photosensitivity

I know this is a funny topic for the middle of winter ... but I'm on the letter S !!!

What is it

Sunburn in horses is the same as in humans!  Hairless and/or white areas (non-pigmented) are most likely to be affected.  Chesney's nose is particularly susceptible!

Photosensitivity is more serious because it affects all skin and not just the non-pigmented areas. Photosensitivity is the result of a reaction the horse has had to something it has eaten , however, the skin problems don't appear until the horse is exposed to sunlight.   It can be a symptom of liver damage.

As with humans sunburn can result in an increased chance of cancer.


Areas of skin become :

  • Red 
  • Sore 
  • Swollen 
  • Peeling 
  • Raw 
  • Bleeding 
  • Ooze serum

After long periods the skin will become dry and wrinkled with little hair. Horses with photosensitivity are likely to have more serious signs!


As with humans the hot sun on sensitive areas of skin will cause it to burn.  However, photosensitivity does not necessarily require hot sun! The causes of photosensitivity are thought to include:

  • St John's Wort 
  • Ragwort (because of damage to the liver) 
  • Perennial Ryegrass 
  • Red and Alsike Clover (because of damage to the liver) 
  • Dyes 
  • some types of drugs 
  • etc ....


If the horse shows serious sunburn, call the vet.  Visual examination will identify the sunburn. 


Remove the horse to a  shaded stable or field shelter, this will provide some immediate relief.  If there are blisters which are oozing the vet should be called as any infection may need antibiotics.  


Keep horse out of the sun at the hottest times of the day and when the sun is at its strongest.  It is therefore a good idea to stable the horse during the day.  Field shelters and trees provide good shade BUT horses don't always stand under them (Chesney won't).  Suncream can also help.  Full face fly masks are available with UV protection and full body fly sheets can also help. 

Have you seen this week's video 'Tommy's Christmas Tinsel'  on my You Tube channel?   
Horse Life and Love.  Please check it out and SUBSCRIBE.

You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates on Chesney, Basil, Tommy and Daisy.

Until next time!

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