Let’s face it, we don’t exactly get scorching summers in Ireland but as humans, we are all too familiar with the nasty feeling of sunburn and the dangerous effects that it can have on our health, hence the actions that we take to try and avoid being burnt. It is equally as important not to forget our equine friends, our cherished companions can be struck down with this agonizing affliction as well!
Similar to humans, sunburn does not affect all horses equally and because of this, horse owners do not always realise that they must protect their animals. A dark haired horse would be much less likely to get burnt and may simply just see the effects of the sun by a simple bleaching of their coat. More commonly seen among paler equine pals, owners with fair skinned horses have to be careful and should know what to look out for.
What does sunburn look like?
It looks pretty much the same as it does on us. Angry, red and pink. The affected area may also blister and swell if very badly burnt and like humans, the skin may also peel.
Common areas that burn
Usually, the most common area that will burn is the area around the mouth, nose and eyes in horses that have white faces. White socks, bald patches and the vulva can also be prone to burning on your animal also.
It is not just the sun alone that we have to worry about, unfortunately photosensitisation can also make your horse vulnerable to those UV rays. Photosensitivity can occur when your horse ingests chemicals and toxins from certain plants (commonly ragwort). The chemicals in these plants will then circulate your horse’s body where they are exposed to UV rays and the chemicals will damage the cells that would usually protect your horse. A horse with poor grazing conditions may be more likely to develop photosensitivity because it is likely that there are many weeds in the field.
The second type of photosensitivity that you must watch out for is caused by medication. If you happen to notice that your horse is susceptible to burning and they are also on a medication, it is advisable to contact your vet as they may be able to tell you if photosensitivity is a side affect of the medication. On completion of the medication, the effects of photosensitivity should subside but your horse should be kept out of sunlight for this period of time.
What to do?
In general, sunburn will really only cause some redness and peeling and is easily managed. However, if it is ignored, it can cause more long-term damage. UV light can have a detrimental effect on the immunity of the skin and this can often be an underlying cause of infection and mud fever in white or pale skinned horses. Long-term exposure can also cause keratosis of the skin or a thickening of the skin that can eventually turn into skin cancer.
Protecting your horse as much as you can is key to lessening and preventing any unnecessary damage. Muzzle nets and Field Relief masks by Equilibrium Products are an excellent way to offer your horse some protection as they offer up to 80% UV protection. Remember though; if at all in doubt contact your local vet who can offer you professional advice.
Equilibrium Field Relief Midi Fly Mask and Max Fly Mask