EQUUS - - Eq Handson -

From the ev­i­dence on your fleece jacket and truck up­hol­stery, it’s clear: Shed­ding sea­son has be­gun. Although it’s tech­ni­cally still win­ter, shed­ding--which is trig­gered by the length of the days rather than tem­per­a­tures---be­gins in some horses by mid-Fe­bru­ary. Other horses may start later, but by the end of March ev­ery horse in your barn should be los­ing his win­ter coat.

It’s im­por­tant to note which horses aren’t shed­ding. Hold­ing on to a thick, win­ter coat is a hall­mark of the meta­bolic dis­or­der pi­tu­itary pars in­ter­me­dia dys­func­tion (PPID, Cush­ing’s dis­ease). If your hairy horse hasn’t been di­ag­nosed with PPID, ask your vet­eri­nar­ian about the pos­si­bil­ity.

Also call the vet­eri­nar­ian if your horse has been di­ag­nosed with PPID and is un­der treat­ment but still seems to be shed­ding slowly---his med­i­ca­tion dose may need to be ad­justed. Fi­nally, although it’s much more rare than meta­bolic dis­ease, horses with sig­nif­i­cant blind­ness may also be slow to shed be­cause their eyes can­not reg­is­ter the day­light cues that trig­ger the process.

Some horses are patchy shed­ders, mean­ing they will lose large swaths of hair on one part of their body and then an­other. This looks odd---or even un­sightly---for a few weeks, but it isn’t a sign of ill­ness. It’s just a con­gen­i­tal quirk. Like­wise, some horses will lose fine, outer lay­ers of skin as they shed, which can look alarm­ing but also is harm­less. If you’re con­cerned with how your shed­ding horse looks, take a photo, send it to your vet­eri­nar­ian and ask if it’s time to worry.

By Chris­tine Barakat with Melinda Freck­le­ton, DVM

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