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Medical Index
First Posted: Mar 12, 2013
Feb 23, 2014

Vitiligo, Leukoderma or Birdcatcher Spots, Arabian Fading Syndrome, Pinky Syndrome and Lavender Foal in Horses

Vitiligo around the nostril and mouth area

"...general health is unimpaired. Affected horses, usually Arabians, gradually lose their skin coloring on round, depigmented macules and multiple patches, most obviously around the muzzle and the perineum. It is a noninflammatory leukoderma. The cause is unknown. See also vitiligo. Called also pinky syndrome, lavender foal." (The Free Dictionary )

Vitiligo in a quarter horse filly: Clinicopathologic, ultrastructural, and nutritional study
Montes LF (Montes, Leopold F.)1,4, Wilborn WH (Wilborn, Walter H.)1,4, Hyde BM (Hyde, Barbara M.)1, Vaughan JT (Vaughan, J. Thomas)2, Bennett JS (Bennett, Judy S.)3 JOURNAL OF EQUINE VETERINARY SCIENCE Volume: 28 Issue: 3 Pages: 171-175 Published: MAR 2008

"Abstract: Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder characterized clinically by depigmentation of the skin-both epidermis and hairs-caused by destruction of melanocytes. Vitiliginous skin shows a T-lymphocyte inflammatory infiltrate, proliferation of Langerhans cells, epidermal vacuoles, and degenerative changes in the cutaneous nerve fibrils. Increased autoantibodies against melanin, tyrosinase, and various tissues are frequently present in vitiligo patients. Vitiligo is often associated with systemic abnormalities or nutritional deficiencies...Equine practitioners as well as horse owners should be aware that vitiligo may not be simply a cosmetic problem; thus, a complete evaluation of horses affected by this condition should be performed."

Vitiligo can appear at any age. It is thought that there may be a genetic component to it. Arabians seem to have a higher incidence of it. Although usually not a problem in horses there can be other problems that are causing the vitiligo such as hyperthyroidism or anemia. It is associated with these autoimmune diseases. Some think that there could be a nutritional deficiency such as certain minerals. Equine vitiligo is more common in mares that are pregnant or that have recently foaled, suggesting hormonal influence, as well.

Symptoms include flat areas on the skin that feel normal and have no pitmentation. They apppear gradually or suddenly and tend to have a darker border around the spots. The edges of the unpigmented area is usually well defined but irregular. Both sides of the body are affected equally.

White hair can be caused for a variety of reasons such as sound trauma, saddle sores, improperly fitting tack, sunburn and sundamage, frostbite, infections and parasites such as onchocerca (neck threadworms).

For More Information:

Vitiligo in Arabians
Idiopathic Non-inflammatory Leukoderma or Vitiligo

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