Horse owners are all too familiar with the dreaded rain scald. This fungal disease thrives in wet, humid conditions, quickly turning a healthy horse into a scratching, miserable mess. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at rain scald and how to protect your horses from this pesky condition.
What is rain scald, and how does it affect horses?
Rain scald, also known as rain rot or Dermatophilosis is a common bacterial skin infection that affects horses. It is caused by the bacterium Dermatophilus congolensis. This bacterium is often present in the environment and on the skin of healthy horses, but it usually only causes problems when the skin is compromised in some way, such as being constantly wet from heavy rain or high humidity, which softens the skin and allows the bacteria to penetrate and establish an infection.
Rain scald manifests as scabs and sores that often appear on the horse’s back, rump, and sides, where rainwater tends to run off. The sores can be painful to the touch and can cause the horse discomfort.
The skin may be red, raw, and oozing under the scabs. The fur surrounding these lesions may fall off, making the coat patchy. The scabs may be mistaken for dirt or debris caught in the horse’s coat. However, they are usually tightly adhered to the skin, and removal can cause pain to the horse.
While rain scald is not life-threatening, it can be quite uncomfortable for the horse and can result in loss of condition if the infection is extensive. In severe cases, secondary infections can occur, requiring veterinary intervention.
To prevent rain scald, keeping the horse’s skin as dry as possible is important, especially during periods of heavy rain or high humidity. This might include providing adequate shelter, using waterproof blankets, and ensuring good grooming practices to remove excess moisture and dirt from the horse’s coat. If a horse develops rain scald, it should be isolated from others to prevent the spread of the bacteria, and appropriate treatment should be administered under the guidance of a veterinarian. This often involves gently removing the scabs, disinfecting the skin, and applying topical antiseptic or antibiotic creams such as “Heal” made by Best Hoof.
How can you prevent rain scald in your herd?
Rain scald prevention relies largely on good management and hygiene practices. Here are some key strategies to help prevent rain scald in your herd:
- Adequate Shelter: Provide sufficient shelter to your horses from the elements, particularly in heavy and persistent rain periods. You may also use waterproof horse blankets or turnouts, especially for horses that have had issues with rain scald in the past.
- Good Grooming Practices: Regular grooming helps to remove dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells, all of which can contribute to the conditions in which Dermatophilus congolensis thrives. Brushing also stimulates blood flow to the skin’s surface, which can boost skin health. Make sure to dry your horses after they get wet thoroughly.
- Keep Equipment Clean: Shared equipment like saddles, blankets, brushes, or clippers can contribute to the spread of rain scald. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of these items or designating individual equipment for each horse can help prevent cross-contamination.
- Monitor Skin Health: Regularly check your horses for signs of rain scald, such as scabs, hair loss, or skin redness, especially after periods of wet weather. Early detection can help prevent the spread of the infection.
- Quarantine New or Infected Horses: New horses should be quarantined and checked for any signs of disease before introducing them to the herd. Likewise, horses showing symptoms of rain scald should be isolated and treated promptly to prevent the spread of the bacteria to other horses.
- Diet and Nutrition: A horse with a strong immune system is better able to fight off bacterial infections, including rain scald. A balanced diet with all the necessary vitamins and minerals can help support overall health and immunity.
- Veterinary Care: Regular vet checks can catch potential health issues, including skin problems, early. If you see signs of rain scald, reach out to your vet for appropriate treatment options, which may include medicated shampoos or antibiotic treatments.
Horses can still develop rain scald even with the best preventative measures. However, it can be treated effectively with good management and care, and your horses can return to good health.
How is rain scald treated?
The treatment for rain scald usually involves a multi-step approach, including removing scabs, applying topical medications, and sometimes systemic antibiotics. The exact treatment plan might vary depending on the severity of the condition and the individual horse. Here’s a general approach:
- Gentle Scab Removal: The first step is to soften and remove the scabs which house the bacteria. This is typically done by washing the affected area with a mild antiseptic solution or medicated shampoo and warm water. After the scabs are softened, they can be carefully removed. Caution is advised during this process as it can be painful for the horse, and you can draw blood if you don’t loosen them enough.
- Topical Treatments: Once the scabs are removed, topical treatments are applied to the bare skin to kill the remaining bacteria and promote healing. This is where applying topical antibacterial medications such as “Fungus Fighter” Fungus Fighter is an all-natural, easy-to-use spray that can help clear up these stubborn problems once and for all. Not only does it work to fight existing lesions, but it also helps protect the vulnerable area from further infection. It contains natural antiseptic ingredients and is safe enough to use on sensitive skin without causing redness or irritation.
- Systemic Antibiotics: In severe cases of rain scald or when the condition doesn’t improve with topical treatments alone, a veterinarian might prescribe systemic antibiotics. This is usually a course of treatment that lasts several days.
- Environmental Management: To prevent reinfection, ensure that the horse has a dry and clean environment. A waterproof blanket can help keep the skin dry if the weather is wet. Regular grooming to remove dirt and dead skin cells can also help prevent reinfection.
- Monitor the Horse: Keep a close eye on the horse’s condition during and after treatment. If the horse doesn’t show signs of improvement after several days of treatment, or if the condition worsens, contact your veterinarian.
Understanding and preventing rain scald can help ensure your horse is healthy, happy, and comfortable. Stay vigilant, and if you notice any symptoms of rain scald, take swift action to prevent it from getting worse. Always consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about your horse’s skin condition or overall health. As horse enthusiasts, we must do our part to keep our four-legged friends healthy and happy.