The Shire horse is a pretty healthy breed, but there still are a few diseases important to know of. Horses with long and fluffy feathers (of course horses without as well) can often have mold, and some horses more than others. It might be a hereditary condition. Mold is a type of fungus that attacks the epidermis, or in special cases also the inner layers of the skin. Some horses gets swollen feet, that heals down as the horse move around for a while (and the toxic cells gets transported away form the feet). A tip is to lay a band aid over the attacked area, soaked with Iodine or Kloramine, at let it stay over night. Many recommend cutting the feathers, but that is in many cases not necessary. Keep the focus on what has caused the attack, and make the paddock dry and tidy, and eliminate all things that can interact with the pH in the skin. Drain the soil and lead all ground water away, to avoid the horse to stand to the knees in mud. Mold is actually a quite ordinary problem for horses living out the most of the year. But that does not mean that we should not take it seriously! The next you must do to eliminate the cause, is to keep the feet clean and dry.
If the horse is outside all day or gets dirty during riding, remember to wash of the dirt before letting the horse into the stable. The attacked areas of skin must be washed with tempered water and a bit of soap that does not have a negative affection of the skin. Wash very good and dry up, before you put on a cream (antiseptic) to make the skin soft. You can also use some cream against fungus that you can buy on the pharmacy (usually used on humans). This will kill the fungus rather quick in 1 or 2 weeks, but it takes a lot of cream to cover the areas. If the fungus does not reverse despites all the effort, you have to call the veterinarian to make him come and look at it, and maybe give you a prescription for something that cures it. In special cases antibiotics might be necessary.
A disease that is much similar to mold is Chorioptes. This is not a typical Norwegian disease, but an illness that has come across boarders by imported animals. Chorioptes is spreading both directly and indirectly between horses, and you have to treat all the horses to manage to get rid of the problem. Chorioptes is a mite that lives on the surface of the skin and at places with a lot of hair growing, such as the Shire horses’ legs. A typical symptom is that the horse stamps with the feet in the ground and it is clear that is itches. The symptoms are smaller in the summer than the winter, especially in February-march when it is wet, cold and snowy all the time. This is not particularly for the Shire horse, but something that every breed can get. And it is important to treat the ones without symptoms as well, to get rid of it. Experts say that the mite can survive in a couple of weeks outside the host in 2-6 degrees Celsius with a certain moisture. And many veterinarians have little or no knowledge about it because it is rarely seen in Norway. To be sure that it is the Chorioptes equi the veterinarian takes a cellular sample of the infected area, but very often only 1/3 of them testify the mite. This means that the horse can have it without a positive result of the test. You therefore have to take samples from several areas of the horse to be sure.
Here as well do many people recommend cutting the feathers, tough there are several ways to get a hold of the problem without doing it. Sebacil is a great tip to use on local areas. This is a condensation being used on sheep and swine, and you must therefore NOT follow the instructions following the bottle! You must rather mix 50 ml Sebacil in a bucket of water (about 30 liters), which you pour over the legs. You can also use a sponge and rub the mixture into the skin and fur, but remember to wear gloves. A tip is to wash the legs with tempered, mild soap water and pick of the scabs with your nails before you wash well. Then you pour on the Sebacil mixture and let it dry in. Repeat this treatment 2 more times in 1-2 weeks in between. You will get a prescription on Sebacil from your veterinarian. Frontline is also a product similar to Sebacil, used in about the same way. Talk to your veterinarian whether to pick the one or the other.
You can also treat Chorioptes with deworming with Ivomec, that to a certain level, kills the mite. You give the ordinary dose, 2 days at a row. Then you wait 7 days, and repeat the exact same procedure. Another tip is to use Switch Pour On, which you pour from the shoulder and back to the tail. It will spread it self just like the similar products that are eliminating ticks of dogs. Repeat after 2 weeks. No matter which treatment you choose, we all have to take the Chorioptes seriously, to avoid the Shire horse getting a rumor as a disease spreading breed.
Sweet itch is caused by blood sucking mites called Culicoides spp. The mite bites where the skin is thin and causes an allergic reaction in the skin. The areas around the mane and tail are especially vulnerable, and many people call it therefore “mane itch”. It makes the horse scratch a lot, and there is a certain risk for hereditary. Many horses find Sweet itch very annoying, because of the itching and the wounds it causes. It also increases the risk of infection in the wounds. These horses often looses both tail and mane after all the scratching it off. It might help to use vitamins and other subsidies to strengthen the immune system, to make the horse recover faster between the attacks.
The most important thing to do if you have a horse with Sweet Itch is to avoid the attacks as far as possible. This means to protect the horse from mosquitoes and flies by taking it into the stable in the dusk and the dawn, when the insects are most active. You can also try insects repelling products, besides giving garlic or apple vinegar in the meals. You can also give immune strengthening products as long as they are developed for horses and not humans! You can also try to bathe the horse in apple vinegar mixed with water, which is both cooling and disinfecting. This should not be washed of, but has to dry on the horse to give any result. If the horse has an open or infected wound after scratching, you treat this as any other wound. There are also special horse tacks that are supposed to protect the horse against this disease, but the only problem is to find any large enough to fit a Shire horse.