Scottie’s Mystery Baldness

Those of you who follow us on social media will have likely seen mentions of Scottie’s most recent condition, but I now feel like it’s time to sit down and tell you exactly what has been going on and what we are doing about it.

The first weekend of November, a week after Scottie was clipped and got his rugs back from the cleaners, Scottie developed a nice round bald patch on his side on a non-clipped area. It wasn’t wear any tack was, there hadn’t been a scab before (or at least I hadn’t noticed one) and the skin was very healthy looking underneath. It looked like someone had come along with some tweezers and just plucked all the hairs out! It was a bit odd, but I thought we would see how it looked in a few days. Scottie has never had the best skin, he has had sarcoids and when the seasons change he has been known to be quite patchy while losing his coat, but he has never been bald before!

Well about half a week to a week later, a few more bald patches appeared, 2 more on that side of his body and one on the top of each front leg. Again, all the skin looked healthy, I hadn’t noticed any scabbing beforehand, but the fact more had appeared had me a bit more worried. So I gave them all a thorough inspection and started to think about what could be causing them. Weirdly, all the patches were where he hadn’t been clipped. The mental list I created was:

  • An infection, most likely ringworm due to their roundness
  • An allergic reaction, possibly to what his rugs were cleaned with
  • Rough play in the field with his bestie Rambo
  • Scottie being a bit special shedding his coat this winter, possibly due to nutrition
  • Possible heat rash type reaction

Now, from what I know about ringworm, I know it is very infectious and that it has an incubation period of about 1-2 weeks before bald patches appear. The baldness also tends to appear in clusters in an area of the body. Now since Scottie was clipped with the same clippers which were used to clip several other horses on the yard both before and after him and the fact he is turned out in a herd with lots of direct contact with other horses, I found it difficult to believe that if it was ringworm, that nothing else on the yard would have it.
Therefore I thought that an allergic reaction to something, possibly his rug was the most likely cause. But again, there were bald areas where it is unlikely to have been caused by his rug as the patches on the tops of his front legs would have very little contact with the rug. Because of this, I couldn’t rule out rough play in the field being the cause, but since some of the areas were covered by his rug and quite high up, I wasn’t convinced by this.

I decided to call the vet but since it wasn’t an emergency they couldn’t come out until the next week. But this wasn’t an issue for us. By the time the vet came out to see us, the first bald patch had started to get some hair growth on it and no new patches had appeared.

The vet was a bit stumped as to what they are! She didn’t think they looked like ringworm as the skin was really healthy, they weren’t itchy and hadn’t spread in clusters like she would expect them too. However, she said at this stage she couldn’t rule ringworm out. She also said that the fact that the first patch is already healing itself is very promising and points towards an allergic reaction of some sort, although we will probably never know what caused it!

She gave us an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial shampoo to use on the patches every 3-4 days for a few weeks and see how they go. It sounds like if no new ones appear and they all start to show signs of hair growth then it’s all fine. But if new ones do appear or I’m not happy with how the patches are healing, that they can take skin and hair samples to see if they can find out what is causing it.

We are now half way through our shampoo treatment and so far we haven’t have any new patches. So fingers crossed whatever it is has stopped spreading. It was also quite a relief to hear that she really doesn’t think it’s an infection, just because they can be a nightmare to get rid of and involve a lot of disinfecting of everything the horse has been in contact with.

I will take some good photos of his patches tonight and include them in this post so you can see what I mean.

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