Neglect sees the return of “Crimean war” skin disease

  • A skin disease that was eliminated during the Crimean War in the mid-19th century has reappeared, according to charity World Horse Welfare.

    Verrucous pastern dermatitis develops when horses stand in damp, muddy and unhygienic conditions and is one of an increasing number of skin diseases seen in the UK as a direct result of horse neglect.

    View picture of verrucous pastern dermatitis

    There has been a 25 per cent increase in reported cases of the disease in the past five to 10 years.

    Professor Derek Knottenbelt, the leading expert in skin diseases in horses, from the University of Liverpool, has also reported a significant increase in other skin diseases affecting the legs and hooves such as sarcoids, mud rash and canker.

    “In 1973 sarcoids affected around 1.5 per cent of the horses in the UK but this has risen to over six per cent now,” said Professor Knottenbelt. “The numbers don’t look high but in a population of over one million horses and ponies this is an enormous increase of around 45,000 cases.”

    The rise in the number of cases of skin diseases directly corresponds with World Horse Welfare’s statistics, which show an increase of almost 50 per cent in the number of welfare calls in the past five years.

    Professor Knottenbelt added: “If these diseases were preventable during the Crimean War, when horses spent their days and nights knee deep in mud, then they’re surely totally preventable today.

    “The reason we’re seeing such an alarming increase in the number of new cases is largely a result of owners’ ignorance and regrettably in many cases, neglect.”

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