Friday, September 3, 2010


Maisie, with her white legs, is prone to developing scratches - I believe this is sometimes called mud fever, or cracked or greasy heels. When I first got Maisie back in 2002, she had a terrible case of scratches - crusty, oozy, weeping sores covering her heels and the backs of her pasterns. Scratches can apparently be caused by a number of things - fungus, bacteria, viruses and even parasites in some cases. It's similar to rain rot or rain scald, which fortunately I've never had to deal with. Horses with white on their legs seem to be particularly prone to scratches - the pink skin must be more susceptible, and it is usually caused by damp conditions, either in the stall or in turnout. Maisie doesn't seem to have a bad case - just a few crusty areas, mostly on the sides of her pasterns.

Yesterday after bring-in I went to work on it - I scrubbed her legs with EQyss Micro-Tek medicated shampoo and toweled them dry, then put some Nolvasan antiseptic ointment on the crusty places - I never try to pick these off but let them resolve on their own. I've also had good luck using Listerine mouthwash to treat mild cases of this sort of thing, as well as the crud horses sometimes get on the fronts of their cannon bones, or mild irritation/infections from bug/tick bites. I've heard that some people have had good luck with Desenex or even Balmex as a treatment/preventative. Of course the treatment needed may depend on what's causing the problem.

If you've had experience with scratches or rain rot, what treatments have you found to be effective?


  1. I personally have not had to deal with rain rot, but there are some horses where I board that are prone to it every spring. I believe Absorbine Jr is used on the sores, I guess because rain rot is fungus based. The scabs are removed before application.

  2. I love Banixx spray, which is antibacterial and antifungal, and has no odor and does not sting. I like that it is good for many things - alleviates the need for a number of products in the tack room.

    Oil of oregano (mixed with a more soothing oil like olive) is also very useful for fungal issues.

    Also love the Eqyss Micro-tek shampoo for general use.

    I tend to use homeopathic remedies for insect bites and would do so for any serious skin issues, since I think what we see on the skin is reflecting something inside the body.

    We've not ever had serious issues with this kind of thing, but now and then one of them might get a scurfiness on small areas of the fronts of the hind legs. I've found that since I balanced their vits/minerals to our hay, we haven't had skin issues, and even sensitivity to insect bites has decreased.

  3. I have to assume, thankfully, that it is our desert climate that prevents all of my white-legged Paints from developing scratches. I have occasionally dealt with rain-rot, and have used plain old hydrogen peroxide (though these days it may be considered overkill--it's fairly caustic).
    I swear by Desinex ointment for any kind of skin break--it has zinc oxide and I think vitamins A and D, so it is very healing. It's oily though, so I usually start with Nolvasan first, to make sure to kill any little microbes at work, and to let the wound breathe until it starts healing. Then the Desinex really goes to work, and there is rarely any scarring in all but major injuries.

    1. Hello, i was reading a bunch of articles on mud fever and they all said that oily creams are good, because they help seal out water and moisture. In fact some people put veg. oil or baby oil(which can cause skin iritation on sensitive horses)on thier legs. Although it makes sense that you would wany it to air out at first.

  4. Desenex. The thing I like about it is that it's pretty waterproof, so after you clean the skin with a medicated shampoo and dry it well, the Desenex goes on and helps keep the outside moisture out.

  5. I used to get really bad mud rash here every winter, but have removed it completely by adding copper to the water. NZ is very deficient in copper and it's really important for the functioning of the immune system. If you have iron rich soil this also inhibits the uptake o copper.

    1. Really interesting tip - thanks!

  6. I use Shapley's MTG for rain rot and it works great. I also use it on my colt's tail when he starts rubbing it. Good for growing out manes and tails too.

    If you decide to use it be sure to test a small spot because some horses are sensitive to it. I don't know if it's the sulphur in it but I've never had a problem with it. Don't use too much though because it's kind of greasy and thin so it doesn't take much.

  7. My Paint mare has never had scratches, (hard to believe, I know) but instead gets some kind of creepy looking fungus on her hind legs just below her hocks. It's always on the back of her legs, though, and not on the front like my gelding gets on occasion.

    I always try to keep the hair shaved so the skin can dry faster and use Listerine as long as it doesn't seem to sting.

    I'm a picker, though... if the scabs look like they're loose, I'll pick them off.

  8. They call that Dew Poisoning here and YES I have to deal with it with Bonnie. Ugg.. all three high white socks. Vet told me it was a fungus.

    I treat by washing/scrubbing really well with anti-fungal then I completely dry her legs and then spray with, believe it or not, Listerine Mouth Wash!

  9. Animalintex. Follow the directions and then secure it with vet wrap it works wonders. We leave it on for 24 hours and when the scabs come off we still apply it to heal the skin. (for more serious cases).

    Another thing we've used is Healing Tree T-Pro Equine Wound Spray. We use that when they are just starting and it seems to prevent them from spreading.

  10. Like EvenSong, I live in a dry climate, and my white-legged horse isn't prone to scratches. I do use Absorbine medicated shampoo when I wash his legs, and maybe that's a good precaution.

  11. I love reading the remedies that everyone here has mentioned. I am always checking my horses legs for scratches and he just recently developed a crusty spot. I am trying MTG liquid on it. I am perplexed by this since it has been so dry here for a long time, so wet conditions haven't caused it. This post and the comments have given me very helpful information on treatment options.

  12. My TB's leg with the mini-sock tends to get scratches. Like Billie, I use Banixx spray; it's great for wound care & other such tasks. It is excellent for keeping areas clean & providing some moisture without using a petroleum product, which is a no-no in the beginning phases of wound healing. After the Banixx, I coat the area with generic diaper cream. That helps to protect it from the water & seal in the clean area. If it was more than a mild case, I might mix up some anti-fungal cream (like Lamictal) & a little 1% hydrocortisone cream (for anti-inflammatory & put that on. My BO uses iodine, which she swears by, but her horse tends to have a chronic problem & it doesn't seem to be that effective.

  13. I keep Tucker's heels coated with desitin when the weather is damp, or when they first start night turnout in the spring and his legs are damp from dew when he comes in. I have read that scratches starts because the pink skin, when wet, is soft, and when they go into a stall the shavings or straw makes tiny scratches on their heels, and these tiny little scratches are then prone to infection/fungus. So if I can't be there to be sure his legs are bone dry before he goes in his stall, the diaper rash ointment is a good preventative barrier. Of course, when I'm there, I make sure to towel dry his legs and hand graze him until they are dry before returning him to a stall. Once they have a full blown case of it, I reach for Shapley's MTG (Mane-Tail-Groom). It softens the scabs and the crusty stuff will literally wipe off the next day. Then you just treat it with the desitin and it usually clears right up.

  14. I never had a problem with scratches until last winter. Both my horses got it. We had a really wet, muddy winter, which is normal around here. But for some reason both my horses got it for the first time. I ended up having to shave the horses lower legs so they could dry out quicker, wash with Betadine, and then I use Nolvasan.
    We have horses at work that get scratches all the time, and they are stalled, and their stalls are kept extremely clean by our stall cleaners. Those horses are treated by scrubbing with Nolvasan, then adding Nolvasan cream to the affected area. I love Nolvasan, it works for everything. It is expensive, but totally worth it!

  15. Hi Kate, I have had a bad experience of Rain Rot, or as we call it here, Rain Scald!
    It starts out as a, sandy, slightly gritty felling under the hair of the horse. Last winter my horse Gracie got it bad! I rugged her up, as usual, but it didnt stop it. She or any of the other horses have ever suffered from it before.
    So it was a shock to find it. Any way, I wasnt aware of the symptoms, I was to be honest, a bit thick here. So I brushed her and the rest as usual, and gave them all an antiseptic scrub.
    The following week the weather got warmer and very wet. Followed by a very cold spell, Gracie was her usual self! However, I was doing my weekly under the rug check! And my hand felt like it was running on slime.
    She was covered. Vet came and recommended the following stuff! Now be careful this stuff is "wicked" It stinks to high heaven and stains everything in sight!!!!! But It works a treat!!
    SULPHERATED LIME. in Liquid concentrate. Dilute to bathe the affected area.
    Sometimes called LIMEPLUS DIP.

  16. I watched the trainers at my old barn wash their horses legs with Ivory dish soap every time they were ridden. I assume it works since they did it every day and didn't seem crazy to me.

    Fortunately I've never had an issue with it.

  17. Oh, the dreaded scratches! I like to start off with Malaseb shampoo and a soft curry mitt, the Malaseb is anti-fungal (I heard it just got discontinued, though, so I guess I;ll have to switch to an alternative) and the curry mitt can help loosen some of the scabs. I do a small amount of picking, but just the loose crusts that come off easily. Also, if the legs have a lot of hair, I will clip them, as this helps them to heal faster.
    After that, I have several "remedies" that I usually go back and forth with -- spraying and scrubbing with apple cider vinegar works really well, but just make sure your horse doesn't have any open sores or it could sting.
    A mixture of triple antibiotic cream/zinc oxide or diaper rash cream/athlete's foot cream is a great treatment (and it can also be used for thrush in the central sulchus of the frog!).
    I also like Calm Coat, as it is all natural anti-fungal herbs and it works very well.
    For a body-wide case of fungus, I recently used aerosol athlete's foot spray and that worked very well.
    As for the stuff on the front of the back cannons, that's cannon keratosis. I recently cleared up a case by gently currying with a mitt, spraying/scrubbing with ACV, and then applying Calm Coat. Now I just use the curry to keep the crusts from returning.
    Gee, can you tell I've had a lot of experience with fungus? :-) I'm in Miami, which is pretty much a petri dish of funk.


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