Did you know that horses like humans can get sunburn too? They can be at risk for the skin damage and discomfort that accompany a sunburn, especially on the non-pigmented, pink-skinned areas of the body. The breeds that most frequently suffer from sunburn include Paints, Pintos, and Appaloosas, as well as many cremello-colored horses and others with pale skin.
Sunburn is most frequently seen in areas where the skin is more sensitive — like around the eyes and on the muzzle of pale or white-faced horses — and horses prone to recurrent sunburn also have an increased likelihood of developing squamous cell carcinoma (a common skin cancer).
To reduce the risk of sunburn, the best advice is to avoid sun exposure when possible. This is often achieved by stabling the horse during the day and allowing him to graze from dusk to dawn.
Another preventive option is the use of a full-face fly mask, or a full-body fly sheet for horses with large areas of white over the back and trunk. Choose a product that comes with UV protection.
Lots of horse owners use human products, such as children’s sunscreens, on their horses, however the product needs to be reapplied often to fully effective (just like on people).
If your horse is susceptible to sunburn, contact your veterinarian for more information about sun damage and recommendations to keep your animal comfortable. Sunburn recovery in the horse can take months, so taking proactive steps to keep your equine friend protected this summer is in everyone’s best interest! If you have any sunburn or horse health questions do not hesitate to give our office a call (336) 349-4080.