Q & A – Signs of a Tail Pyoderma Infection

Published in the May 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.


Pyoderma is a skin infection, that can also effect the tail of a horse. Here Robert Tremblay, DVM, DVSc, Diplomat ACVIM, answers our reader\’s question on a this type of infection, which sadly effected their horse. Tremblay, is a Technical Services veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. He graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1982 and worked in large animal practice in New Brunswick. After receiving a DVSc degree in 1988, he remained at OVC as a faculty member in the large animal clinic until 1992. He spends much of his time working on the control of infectious diseases of horses and cattle.

Question: Our Quarter Horse mare lost about half her tail last year when it started to flake and then had little sores exhibiting pus on it. Eventually it resolved with daily Betadine washes. Now she’s in heat and it’s back. This time, her tail looks like a candle, all white and waxy and big clumps of greasy waxy white stuff comes off. Underneath there are little open sores. I think it must be a fungus or parasite, in which case the Betadine won’t do anything. Anybody seen anything like this?

Answer: It sounds like your horse has a condition called tail pyoderma. This disease is a bacterial infection of the hair follicles. It can occur anywhere on the horse but the tail and pasterns are common sites. The infected follicles are the “small pusy sores\” that you describe in your letter. This bacterial infection may improve or even resolve with the Betadine treatment, but as you found out, it is likely to come back. It comes back because the infection of the follicles, called pyoderma, happens when there is some other problem that disrupts the normal skin. The disrupted skin allows the bacterial infection to take hold. Finding out what the original problem might be and then preventing it usually gives the best long-term solution.


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