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Hair regrowth after injuries

From: Jennifer

I have two questions concerning hair growth, or lack thereof, on horses:

1. A gelding in his mid-teens suffered a fairly serious gash on his hindquarters late last summer. The wound, several inches long by a couple of inches wide, required several dozen stitches, but has healed surprisingly well. Hair has begun to grow back in around the very edges, but the majority of the exposed skin shows no growth at all as of yet. Is there any way to encourage regrowth? The area is treated daily with baby oil to keep it moistened.

2. A six-year-old mare has just come to the barn from owners who kept an ill- fitting halter and a single-strap cribbing collar on her 24 hours a day. The hair on the side of her face and across her nose is rubbed away, but the worst damage is on the side of her neck, where there is one patch where the collar has not only rubbed the hair away, but has buffed the skin shiny and tough. There is also a white patch on her neck where a previous rub must have occurred. She now does not wear the halter in her stall or during turn-out, and she has been switched to the double- strapped cribbing halter, with fleece protectors. Is there any hope for hair regrowth here?


Hi Jennifer! I think the best advice is "wait and see," since you seem to be doing what is necessary in both cases. The gelding may not grow any hair over the scar itself, but if you can keep the area soft by applying an ointment such as Corona or Desitin, you may be able to minimize the amount of scar tissue and maximize the amount of healthy, hair-growing skin.

In the mare's case, it will depend on how long she wore that halter and cribbing strap. If the rubbing was strong enough to damage the skin UNDER the top layers, she may not grow any more hair. I would hazard a guess, though, that she may grow some hair on her face. The neck -- that's definitely a "wait and see." Ointment should help as much as anything can, since, again, you want to minimize the scar tissue and maximize the amount of healthy, supple skin.

Sometimes it takes quite a long time for hair to grow back where there has been an injury -- it can take several months or even longer. Whether some, or all, or any of the hair returns or not will depend on the nature and extent of the injury -- permanent hair loss occurs whenever the hair follicle is destroyed and scar tissue is formed.

If there is no skin infection, and the follicles themselves (the skin tissue surrounding the roots of individual hairs) are still present, there may be regrowth in time. In the meantime, you're on the right track with the ointments. It would be a good idea to talk with your veterinarian about this -- someone who is on the spot and can SEE both horses and give good medical advice and suggestions.

- Jessica

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