4 Common Winter Horse Skin Conditions and How to Treat Them Featuring Equiderma
By: Shannon Fox & Ariana Curcio
If you’ve been around horses as long as we have here at Intrepid International, chances are you’ve dealt with at least one frustrating skin condition. While not usually serious enough to warrant a call to the vet, these horse skin conditions can linger for months or even years. An untreated skin issue can provide a pathway for more serious bacteria to invade through sores or open skin. Equiderma products offer products that perform quickly, effectively, predictably and most of all painlessly utilizing all natural ingredients.
The first step to eradicating a skin disorder is to identify what you’re dealing with. We’ve provided a handy identification guide to 4 of the most common horse skin conditions. We’ve also included ideas for how to combat these infections in winter, where snow, mud, and rain often make it impossible to keep the skin clean, dry, and medicated.
Note: This guide does not constitute veterinary advice. When in doubt, call the vet!
Scratches in Horses
What are Scratches?
Scratches are one of the most common of horse skin issues. Mention that your horse has some type of “crud” on his legs and someone will suggest that it’s scratches. Despite the similarities it shares with other skin infections, scratches are not a fungus and have their own specific set of symptoms.
Symptoms of Scratches:
Scratches, also known as “Mud Fever”, “Greasy Heel”, or even “Dew Poisoning”, usually presents on the horse’s heels or pasterns. Reddened skin, hair loss, and hard, crusty scabs that bleed when removed are the most common symptoms of scratches. Your horse may also experience pain when touched.
Treatment for Scratches:
Scratches occur when the horse is kept in wet or muddy conditions where the skin cannot dry properly. Even a horse that is turned out on wet grass can develop scratches.
The key to successfully treating scratches is to keep the skin clean and dry. The horse should be moved into a dry environment, such as a clean, indoor stall.
All of the scabbing, loose hair, and crusts should be gently washed away using a gentle shampoo such as Equiderma Neem & Aloe Shampoo. Make sure to thoroughly dry the leg. You don’t want to pick the scabs so much as massage away the ones that are ready to come off. Picking ones that aren’t ready will cause the skin to bleed and new scabs to form. If the horse’s hair in the affected areas is long, you will want to clip it away to better treat the infection on the skin.
Often, moving the horse into a dry environment and keeping the skin clean is enough to start the healing process. Next, you should apply a zinc oxide paste such as Equiderma’s, this paste has antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-dermatophyte properties and creates a water-resistant barrier.
Winter Treatment Tips for Scratches:
If the horse is turned out during the day and stalled at night, clean the mud or snow from his legs and repeat the treatment process after he comes in for the evening. You can use a simple hairdryer to dry the affected area if it’s cold where you are (make sure you only use the warm or cool setting and don’t get the nozzle too close to the leg.) Apply the zinc paste when finished.
If the horse lives outside, take him up to the barn daily to treat his legs. Use a hairdryer to speed the drying process. Then apply the zinc paste and finish with a wrap to repeal the snow and mud and to keep the area clean and medicated. Change the wrap daily. As the area starts to heal, you may be able to dispense with the wrap.
Cannon Keratosis in Horses
What is Cannon Keratosis?
Cannon Keratosis occurs when a horse’s sebaceous glands (glands that produce oily sebum, which gives hair its shine) are over-productive. Keratosis can occur elsewhere on the horse’s body, but are often found on the hind cannon bone, particularly on horses’ with white legs.
Symptoms of Cannon Keratosis:
The horse will develop dark “crusts” that appear to be mud or dirt that aren’t as easily removed. When the hair in these areas is tugged on or curried out, the hair comes out in little clumps that appear to be stuck together with this dark, sticky material. Normally the clumps come off without much incident or bleeding. However, the horse can develop bald patches where the clumps were.
Treatment for Cannon Keratosis:
Keratosis in general is much more of a cosmetic problem. However, it is important to treat as it can spread rapidly and can cause balding.
Cannon keratosis is best treated by rinsing the horse’s legs daily and scrubbing the affected areas with a rubber curry mitt like the Loopa Shampoo Mitt and a mild shampoo like Equiderma Neem & Aloe Shampoo. As it is neither bacterial nor fungal in nature, a mild soap should suffice. Regular grooming like this should lessen the appearance of cannon keratosis. Some horses may be sensitive in this area so be careful you don’t get kicked!
Winter Treatment Tips for Canon Keratosis:
As horse owners, it’s hard to keep our horses as nicely groomed as we would like during the winter months. Rain, mud, snow, and freezing temperatures mean a good body brushing is usually all we’re up for. But cannon keratosis thrives under this somewhat lax grooming regiment.
If at all possible, you need to keep up with regular bathing of the legs. Bring a hair dryer down to the barn to help dry the hair before he goes into his stall or back outside. As you shouldn’t need to apply cream or medication to the skin, he won’t need to wear wraps.
If you absolutely cannot bathe the horse’s legs, be sure to give him a good currying in this area to loosen the sticky tufts of hair. You won’t entirely be able to combat cannon keratosis this way, but it should help a bit while you wait for warmer temperatures.
Rain Rot in Horses
What is Rain Rot?
Rain rot or rain scald, comes from the bacteria dermatophilus congolensis. Many horses carry this organism on their skin and in warm, damp conditions with high humidity, the organism multiplies. When the horse gets a scrape or an insect bite, the organism enters the skin.
Symptoms of Rain Rot:
Rain rot appears either as large, crusty scabs or patches of small bumps in the hair. Pus is often present under the scabs and the pink skin gives way to grey, dry skin. The condition is not generally painful or itchy, but the scabs can hurt when removed.
Treatment for Rain Rot:
The horse should be moved to a dry, well-ventilated place out of the rain. Clean and wash all of his equipment including brushes, blankets, saddles pads, and tack.
First, apply Equiderma Skin Lotion against the direction of the hair. This broad spectrum anti-fungal, antibacterial lotion gets the job done utilizing natural ingredients that will not irritate your horse. Do not attempt to remove the scabs during this first treatment. The next day, gently shampoo area with Equiderma Neem & Aloe Shampoo and rinse well. At this point all of the scabs should easily rinse away. Re-apply more lotion and leave on.
Continue to re-apply the lotion daily. At this point treatment is complete. You will notice hair re-growth and a cessation of all infection and inflammation.
If he cannot be moved into a dry stall or is turned out during the day, try a light, breathable sheet that will repel the rain, but allow air to circulate. Make sure he has access to shelter from the rain.
In more severe cases of rain rot, the horse may need an antibiotic from the vet.
Winter Treatment Tips for Rain Rot:
Rain rot is primarily a rainy season problem. All of the tips above should be helpful in combating rain rot during the winter.
Ringworm in Horses
What is Ringworm?
Ringworm is caused by fungal dermatitis.
Symptoms of Ringworm:
At first, the hair may appear rough or coarse. Bald patches may appear or you may notice your horse itching incessantly until the hair rubs away. These patches are often circular, but not always. The exposed skin may be flaky, like dandruff.
Treatment for Ringworm:
Do not groom the horse as the infection may spread to other parts of the body. Clip hair away from the affected areas, leaving a clipped “margin” of unaffected skin. The fungus feeds on keratin, a protein in your horse’s skin and hair. Apply an anti-fungal antiseptic like Betadine to the affected area. Let sit for 10 minutes and rinse away. Dry your horse well then apply an anti-fungal lotion such as Equiderma’s Skin Lotion for Horses. Repeat daily until condition begins to improve. Try not to blanket him as sunlight and good air circulation help kill the fungus.
Ringworm is VERY contagious. Clean up and bag any clipped hair. Disinfect clippers and grooming equipment. Clean and shampoo yourself and launder your clothes. Keep the horse stalled by himself or away from other horses. Do not share equipment as ringworm is easily spread within a barn.
Winter Treatment Tips for Ringworm
If you must blanket the horse, may sure it is clean, breathable, and not shared with any other horses. Try and keep the blanket off as much as possible, especially on a sunny day.
Have you dealt with any of these common horse skin conditions? What tips do you have for ridding your horse of these ailments, particularly in the winter? Share them in the comments below!
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