Crusted and Scabbed Skin (Skin Crud) in Horses

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Last updated on
2 min read

Key takeaways

Crusted, scabbed skin in horses is sometimes referred to as “skin crud.”

  • This is a catch-all term for symptoms where the skin has raised bumps, hair loss, scaling, pus formation, or crusting
  • Causes vary and include allergies, photosensitization, ringworm, rain rot, mange, and skin infections
  • Diagnostics include blood work, skin scraping and biopsy, bacterial/fungal testing, and trichoscopy
  • Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the skin crud but can include antibiotics, antifungals, and topical treatments
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A closer look: Crusted and Scabbed Skin (Skin Crud) in Horses

This is a common symptom in horses, and the majority of causes are simple to treat. This symptom is not an emergency, but open wounds on the skin can lead to secondary infections so it is best to seek veterinary help as soon as possible to prevent infection and treat the underlying cause.

Possible causes

Risk factors

The severity of the crusting or scabbing is directly related to the surface area that is affected. This can range from a small patch of skin to multiple limbs/areas affected. Horses that have large areas affected or multiple affected limbs may be unwilling to move or show signs of lameness. Some causes of scabbing are itchy, and severely affected horses may become so itchy they cause damage to their skin through chewing, biting, or rubbing on surfaces, leading to open skin sores or wounds. Open sores may develop secondary skin infections which require prompt veterinary assessment.

Testing and diagnosis

After completing a physical examination and medical history, a number of tests can be done to determine the underlying cause:

  • Blood work
  • Skin scraping
  • Skin biopsy
  • Bacterial and fungal culture
  • Examination of the hair (trichoscopy)

Treatment will vary based on the cause of the sloughing but can include:

  • Topical medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungals
  • Bathing with special shampoos
  • Lifestyle changes to avoid recurrence

Similar symptoms

Crusting and scabbing is not easily confused with other symptoms.

Associated symptoms


Diane E. Rice - Writing for The Horse
Heather Smith Thomas - Writing for The Horse
Toby Raymond - Writing for The Horse
Katie Navarra - Writing for The Horse
Karen A. Moriello, DVM, DACVD - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Karen A. Moriello, DVM, DACVD - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual

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