Equine Summer Sores: Prevention is one cure


Summer is a great time for you and  your horse to spend riding in the fields. It is also a good time for horses to socialize with their herd mates and frolic in the grass. Unfortunately the warmer weather also brings invasions of insects.  During the warmer months your horse is more active and possibly prone to injuries that cause wounds. A perfect combination for the presence of summer sores to appear which can restrict  your activities whilst waiting  for your horse  to heal.

What are Summer Sores?

Equine summer sores are skin lesions mainly caused by parasite infections.  Typically, the larvae are deposited in the pasture or stable area in feces from horses infected with this particular worm and then ingested by the fly. The fly then leaves the larvae on wounds, abrasions, or moist areas  such as the ears, eyes, and genitals. This infection can be very itchy and cause extreme sensitivity of the skin. To remedy the itch, horses bite, chew, and scratch on their wounds, which ultimately results in bleeding. To make matters worse, the wounds tend to heal slowly which can result in the development of secondary infections.

equine summer sores are just 1 reason why horses itch.

equine summer sores are just 1 reason why horses itch.

Summer sores as the name implies occur during summer months and this is due to many reasons. Firstly flies that are capable of transmitting larvae are most active during this season. In addition high humidity and warm weather prolong healing time of cuts, abrasions, and wounds. There are also some cases of summer sores that have healed during cooler months only that resurface in spring or summer. Treatment approach will vary according to the location and severity of the lesions.

What causes  Summer Sores?

Equine summer sores is medically known as Habronemiasis. This infection is caused by the Habronema stomach worm and its  larvae which infects the horse. The larvae penetrate the exposed skin to cause the infection. The adult worm lives in the horse’s stomach and deposits  larvae into the digestive tract. The larvae is then passed out of the horse as manure.  Then along come the maggots  from the stable flies which gather around and feast on the manure.  When they mature into adult flies the Habronema larvae migrate to the head part of the stable fly. The flies are very attracted to wet, moist areas of the skin. When they make contact with  the open wounds or moist area they deposit the stomach worm larvae. The stomach larvae that wiggle inside the wound of your horse cause irritation of the skin. On top of that, the larvae feed on infected skin tissue which increases the size of the wound in a very short period of time. The stomach worm larvae often form a  yellow appearance which  may resemble “sulfur granules” embedded on the skin. Irritated and sensitive skin will become intensely itchy and horses can’t resist the urge to scratch.

How Do You Treat Summer Sores?

There are many ways on how you can treat this summer infection. To completely eradicate the larvae that may have piled up on the wound of your horse, clean the wound and have your veterinarian check on the infection. Once aseptic wound cleaning has been accomplished dry it and apply an antibiotic cream. Bandage dressing should be placed to help cover the open wound. If the affected area cannot be bandaged (i.e. face, sheath) aluminum spray should be applied after the cream and allowed to dry.

Equine summer sores need to be covered well until healing of the lesion takes place, which you can tell by the growth of hair on the affected area.

Ivermectin wormer is also administered every week for duration of 3-4 weeks until the lesions have improved.

How can you prevent Summer Sores?

Unfortunately, you cannot completely prevent this problem. However there are many things you can do to minimize the possibilities of having these lesions develop on your horse’s skin.

  1. Clean your barn and pasture as regularly as possible, avoiding piling up of manure especially near the barn.
  2. Fly spray, fly masks, fly boots, and fly sheets are extremely handy during this time, so use it.
  3. If you observe that summer sore is rampant in your area, an automatic fly misting system may be useful to your barn.
  4. Keeping a timely deworming schedule helps control stomach worms.

Keep in mind that if your horse has had summer sores before  there is a  possibility that he will be susceptible to another one. To remedy this, make sure you clean and cover any open wounds that your horse might have to stop it from developing into those nasty lesions.

The Cure for equine summer sores

Summer sores are caused by stomach worm larvae in horses that are carried by the common stable flies. Proper barn management, control of stable flies, and updated worming schedules can contribute so much in your goal of preventing the development of summer sores  and can help you enjoy spending time on horseback this spring and summer






About Author

Betsy OReilly, Managing Editor of Blog Abler dedicated to Equine Ulcers. Born and bred in country Victoria, Australia, is a lifelong horse owner who has dabbled in Pony Club and Horse Racing. Enjoys hearing and writing about Equine Ulcers.

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