With the torrential rain and dismal weather we have seen in the past month, cases of rain scald and greasy heel will be a common appearance once again. Let’s take a closer look at both of these conditions.
Rain scald (dermatophilosis) is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Dermatophilus
congolensis and is usually seen after prolonged periods of rain. Some horses seem to be predisposed to the condition and tend to get it repeatedly whilst others may be affected as a one off. Crusts along the back and down the sides of the body where the rain runs off are characteristic for the condition. Lesions begin as small crusts with matting of the overlying hair progressing to larger crusts with pus and circular erosions underneath.

Diagnosis can be confirmed by looking at a smear of the crusts under a microscope – the bacteria have a very distinctive ‘railtrack’ appearance.
The most important factor in treatment is preventing further exposure to rain and most cases resolve with this alone. Removal of the crusts and treatment with topical anti-bacterial wash such as chlorhexidine may speed up resolution. Occasionally systemic antibiotics are required for severe cases. Care must be taken to dispose of the crusts after removal as they pose an infection risk to other horses and any rugs or saddle pads should be washed as well. Providing shelter and regularly checking and changing rugs during prolonged wet weather reduces the chance of rain scald.

Mud fever or greasy heel is a bacterial infection that is seen as painful scabs and sores on a horse’s legs, usually the pastern. The bacteria organisms thrive in moist conditions. It most commonly affects pink skinned legs however can occur on all horses. If left untreated, mud fever can develop into an infection that travels up the leg causing a painful condition known as cellulitis. Prevention is the best practice – keep the horse out of muddy yards and paddocks as much as possible. Clipping the legs can help them to dry quicker and helps avoid trapping moisture. Monitor for signs of greasy heel regularly and act immediately if you suspect an infection forming. Any swelling, heat or lameness should be seen by your Veterinarian for assessment. SHEC offers a formulated greasy heel cream to assist in wound healing in conjunction with management strategies.

If you are worried your horse might have rain scald, greasy heel or another skin condition, don’t hesitate to chat to your vet today.

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