What kind of skin problems do Friesian horses have?

September 10, 2013
January 1, 2018 thumnail

Friesian horses, with their jet-black coats, flowing manes, and high-stepping gaits, have become popular among people want to ride or drive a magnificent, eye-catching equine. Originating in the Netherlands and combining the better qualities of primitive forest horses and possibly some Andalusian blood, Friesians are prized for their strength, grace, and athleticism.

When a registry was established in 1879, breeders desired to retain these characteristics, thus the horses were tightly inbred. This method has resulted in exceptional horses, but it has also enabled certain genetic flaws to emerge. If breeders, owners, and vets keep these flaws in mind, they will be more effective in handling Friesians.

Veterinarians at Utrecht University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the Netherlands and Ghent University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Belgium have documented problems that have been seen in a disproportionate number of Friesian horses. The flaws were discovered in the skeletal, circulatory, and digestive systems. The immune system and the skin are also affected. Several of these problems may be linked to abnormal collagen structure and function, the protein-based connective fibrils found in skeletal and soft tissue.

Dwarfism produces Friesians foals with severely stunted leg growth, though their heads and bodies approach normal size. These individuals also have fetlock hyperflexion and long, thin hooves. Dwarf Friesian mares were often utilized as broodmares in the past. This practice is no longer allowed if an animal is to be registered, but the genes for dwarfism have become widespread.

Dwarf Friesians exhibit increased tendons and ligament laxity when compared to other pony breeds, according to studies. Normal Friesians have tendon and ligament stretch qualities that fall in between dwarfs and regular horses. It has been suggested that the high-stepping gaits of the Friesian are caused by this increased laxity which affects weight-bearing in the limb joints. Thus, the collagen-linked disorders common to these horses may actually be the factor that produces their showy way of going.

Hydrocephalus, an abnormal and generally deadly collection of cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull, is another abnormality observed in roughly 2.5 foals per 1,000 births. This may be related to another collagen-linked defect that allows a malformation of the jugular foramen, leading to compression of the jugular vein and disturbing fluid movement.

Megaesophagus, or persistent esophageal dilatation, is linked to the collagen anomaly prevalent in Friesian horses. The disease is caused by poor muscle tone and contractile capacity in the esophageal wall. Horses with the disease have lack of appetite, salivation, muscular atrophy, moderate colic, and esophageal blockage, which may lead to aspiration and pneumonia. Records of horses seen because of megaesophagus at a veterinary clinic showed that of 45 cases, 41 were in Friesians. Researchers investigating the cases discovered a genetic propensity among the afflicted horses, strongly implying that this ailment is inherited.

Weakened immune systems have been attributed for the increased frequency of various issues that do not occur as often in other breeds. More over half of Friesian broodmares have retained placentas, compared to 2 to 10% of the general equine population. In the Netherlands, Friesians are twice as likely as Shetland ponies to develop insect bite hypersensitivity. This condition, which causes intense itching, skin damage, and hair loss on the mane, tail, head, and midline of the abdomen, may be so severe that affected horses may be unusable for weeks or months during the summer fly season. Antihistamines, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroids, and insect repellents may alleviate symptoms but do not cure the illness.

Many Friesians suffer from chronic dermatitis that causes thickened and ulcerated skin on the pasterns. Treatment is often ineffective for the lesions. Though other draft breeds also have this problem, Friesians are overrepresented, and a genetic cause is suspected but has not been proven.

The aorta ruptures in various breeds, but in most horses, it happens at the aortic root, where the aorta exits the heart. Affected horses leak blood into the pericardial sac, the tissue layer that surrounds the heart, and pressure quickly compresses the heart, causing it to stop beating. Death frequently happens within seconds of the rupture. Yet, among Friesians, aortic rupture nearly usually occurs at the aortic arch, where the artery turns to descend down the body. This out-of-the-ordinary placement reflects a genetic or breed-specific feature. Blood spills into the tissue around the aorta when the rip is tiny. Swelling causes pressure, which decreases bleeding and allows the horse to stay stable for extended periods of time. An elevated resting and working heart rate, poor performance, intermittent lameness, and swelling across the chest and ventral belly are all seen in afflicted horses. After a while, the rupture normally becomes bigger and the horse dies.

Aortic rupture in other Friesians causes an aortopulmonary fistula, which permits blood to seep from the aorta to the lungs. Blood slowly accumulates from the increased flow over a period of weeks or months, and affected horses may develop a dry cough, poor performance, swelling of the chest and legs, and intermittent fever, colic, and lameness. The symptoms may be misinterpreted as other issues, particularly since they often occur in young (average age of aortic rupture is four years) and otherwise healthy horses. Aortic rupture is a likely cause in Friesians, according to owners and vets. These horses should be removed from the breeding stock in order to reduce the number of afflicted animals.

Related Questions

  • What skin conditions can horses get?

    5 frequent skin problems in horses and how to prevent them

    1. Rain scald and mud fever.
    2. Equine lice and mange.
    3. Ringworm.
    4. Folliculitis.
    5. Thrush.
  • What is fungus horse skin conditions?

    Cutaneous infections are the most common fungal skin infections in horses, with dermatophytoses and onychomycoses commonly reported [5]. Dermatophytoses are zoonoses that are caused by dermatophytes and are superficial, cutaneous mycoses.

  • What does dermatitis look like in horses?

    Several lesions in the pastern region are common in horses with pastern dermatitis. Initially, patchy red skin (erythema), oozing, crusting, erosions, and ulcerations develop, followed by swelling (edema) of the affected limb(s). Itchy and sensitive skin is possible.

  • What conditions cause itchy skin in horses?

    Parasites, infections, and allergies are the most prevalent causes of itching. Many skin disorders may not produce itching at first; nevertheless, itching may develop as a result of secondary bacterial or yeast infections. It is possible that by the time itching develops the initial cause is long gone.

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