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'What's On His Leg?'

Diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions fall outside the farrier’s job description, but when clients ask for help, you need to know the basics

Skin disorders can be challenging to diagnose and take time to resolve. Finding skin lesions can be both a blessing in that the progress of the disease can be readily monitored and a curse when a lack of rapid progress becomes more frustrating.

Considering that the hoof derives from skin, it isn’t surprising that dermatology might intrude periodically into the farrier’s professional territory. A farrier might notice a skin lesion on the lower limb or coronary band during a routine visit or might be asked for an opinion from an owner wondering about that weird thing showing up on the horse’s back.

But the problem is that while hoof comes from skin, the skin is not hoof. Although the most visible organ system in the body, skin can sometimes be the most mysterious.

“Different diseases on the skin can look exactly the same,” says Stephen White, DVM, DACVD, professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California-Davis. “The skin has a limited repertoire in how it can respond.”

The skin’s limited number of responses to insult means tumors, auto-immune diseases, fungal diseases and alien invasion can all have similar appearances. With the exception of alien invasion, further testing can often help narrow down the cause of a skin lesion.

While diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions fall outside the farrier’s job description, a basic understanding of the structure and function of the skin and some of the things that can go awry may enable a farrier to…

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Christy Corp-Minamiji DMV

Christy Corp-Minamiji is a freelance writer and former large animal veterinary practitioner. She lives in Northern California.

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