Our vets have put together some useful information on things to look out for during the summer months.
Just like humans, horses are susceptible to sunburn - particularly in depigmented areas and those covered by less hair such as the nose and region around the eyes.
Sunburn will typically cause discomfort, redness and peeling of the skin but in some cases can result in blistering and oozing of serum from the skin. Repeated episodes of sunburn can, rarely, cause skin cancer and also predispose to infections most commonly of the lower limbs (e.g.' mud fever').
If your horse is affected by sunburn, they should be moved to a shaded area. If extensive blistering and serum exudation, a veterinary examination should be requested in order that appropriate treatment can be administered.
Sunburn can be minimised by ensuring your horse always has access to shade and using barrier creams along with masks and rugs.
Occasionally horses appear to suffer from sunburn that appears disproportionate to the weather conditions or colouring. In these cases, veterinary advice should be sought since your horse could be suffering from photosensitisation, where the skin reacts to UV light, rather than sunburn.
Heatstroke is most commonly encountered when horses are exercised strenuously in hot, humid conditions though can rarely be seen when travelling horses in poorly ventilated boxes during warm weather.
Horses suffering from heatstroke will have a raised rectal temperature along with an elevated heart rate and respiratory rate. Appetite will often be reduced, and the horse may be weak processing to ataxia (becoming unsteady when moving) and possibly collapse. Often these horses that are affected severely will become distressed and might display symptoms similar to colic.
The horse should be cooled using copious amounts of cold water over the entire body. Do not place wet towels or rugs on the horse as this will actually heat the horse further. A veterinary examination should be requested immediately in order that drugs used to reduce the high temperature can be administered.
Insect bites & stings
Most insect bites and stings will result in a localised swelling that will reduce without treatment, but occasionally, especially if numerous stings are encountered, severe swelling and discomfort can be observed, presenting similarly to colic. In these severe cases, a veterinary examination is indicated to allow appropriate treatment that will help relieve symptoms.
Ticks are commonly found on horses, normally as individual parasites that should be removed with a 'tick hook' in order to minimise the risk of leaving the tick head biting the skin. If this happens, an infection can occur, requiring appropriate treatment.
In some cases, severe disease can be caused by ticks either because a large number have attached to the horse or due to transmission of microbial diseases.
Certain areas of the country are more prone to ticks than others, and regular use of an insecticidal wash can help minimise infection.