With an abundance of buttercups in fields again this summer, horse owners are advised to keep an eye out for ‘buttercup burn‘.

Last year was a bumper season for the plant and this summer it is causing problems again.

“Buttercup burn” has been one of the most searched for topics on the H&H website in recent weeks.

The flower contains ranunculin, which can be an irritant. It can cause mild soreness or blistering around the mouth and on the sensitive skin around the muzzle. This is often mistaken for sunburn.

“There seem to be masses of buttercups around this year, which can be a cause of contact dermatitis,” warns H&H vet adviser Karen Coumbe. “We often see skin rashes that are blamed on buttercups and that is more likely than sunburn this summer.”

Many H&H readers have turned to our forums for advice.

“This post has made me realise that what I thought were a zillion fly bites is actually my horse reacting to buttercups,” said one H&H reader.

The problem is worse in wet weather — as it has been the past two summers. Moisture on the nose can increase the irritant effect to cause a contact dermatitis. The rash can take up to 72hr to appear.

“Some horses are much more susceptible than others,” added Karen. “Usually removing affected horses from grazing where buttercups are plentiful will result in a rapid improvement without any drug treatment.”

If you are concerned, consult your vet.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (11 July 2013 edition)