Preventing Equine Sun Damage
Just like you, your horse can suffer with too much sun exposure. As most of the country is experiencing higher than normal temperatures, it’s important to know how to protect your horses and ensure their comfort and health.
Can Horses Get Sunburn?
Believe it or not, horses can get sunburn.
Sunburn is skin damage caused by UV radiation to the skin. It is most likely to occur in the pink skin areas of the body, eyes, nose and muzzle. Like us, horses can also develop melanoma and other serious skin conditions due to exposure.
Horses with darker hair and skin are less likely to burn, but they still need protection from the sun. Lighter horses are especially vulnerable to sun damage. Melanin can help to block out some of the UV rays, but all horses can get burned with prolonged exposure to the sun.
Signs of Sun Damage on Horses
The signs of sun damage in horses that you should look out for are:
- Redness or bright pink skin
- Blisters that could be weepy
- Dry or cracked areas that may appear around the muzzle or mouth
Your horse may also resist saddling or any touching around their head if they have discomfort caused by sunburn.
Prevention Is Key
Protecting your horses from the sun is one of the best things you can do for them during the summer months. If you are able to stable them during the parts of the day when the sun is the strongest (usually 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), that can go a long way in protecting them from overexposure.
If they are not able to be stabled – or will be out in the sun for any extended periods at any time of day – there are different kinds of protective gear or sunscreen that you can use to protect them. Sun blocking fly-masks, sheets or hoods can help to protect the skin that is often most vulnerable.
Sunscreen is also a good way to protect your horses. Using a good sunscreen, either chemical or mineral, on the areas that are most prone to burning will provide protection for a couple of hours before you need to reapply. You can either purchase sunscreen specifically for horses or you can use your own sunscreen or zinc oxide. Keeping a tube near the stall will remind you to use it.
How to Treat a Sunburn on Your Horse
If, despite your best efforts, your horse does get a sunburn, there are ways that you can treat it and provide relief for the discomfort. To soothe the skin, you can apply aloe vera gel or a soothing ointment. Covering the sunburned areas with sunscreen or a physical barrier while healing will keep the fragile skin from being burned again.
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