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Effective Greasy Heel Treatments for Horses

horse with greasy heel

Greasy heel, a common skin disease among horses, can cause immense discomfort and even infection if not treated properly. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to treat the condition effectively. In this article, we will cover options for treating greasy heel in horses, including cleansing and disinfecting the affected areas, applying topical ointments, using protective boots, and providing long-term preventive measures. It's also been known as pastern dermatitis.

By following these treatment guidelines, you can quickly help your horse achieve relief from their greasy heel and ensure they remain healthy and comfortable. 



Image of a horse with white legs and greasy heel

What is Greasy Heel?


Greasy heel, also known as mud fever or pastern dermatitis, is a skin affliction that plagues horses - particularly their lower limbs. It's characterized by greasy, cracked, or inflamed skin on the heels and rear of the horse. The condition is caused by inflammation of the skin and can be treated with topical ointments and bandaging.

White legs and feathered feet are more vulnerable to greasy heel due to constant or repeated exposure to wet weather and loose surfaces. Lesions associated with greasy heel differs based on hair length of the horse; lesions tend to be more severe and occur over a larger area in horses with feathered fetlocks; lesions tend to be smaller in short-haired horses.

In its early stages, greasy heel may swell up from insect bites or trauma from muddy paddocks, causing further damage to the skin. If left untreated, secondary infection may develop with numerous scabs appearing on all four limbs or the skin becoming greasier than usual while healing slowly. The hind limbs are most commonly affected, often discharging pus from its lesions.

This section has provided an overview of greasy heel: what it is; who's susceptible; what causes it; how it manifests itself; plus treatment options available for this equine ailment before moving onto other topics related to this issue.


Causes of Greasy Heel


Greasy heel in horses is caused by a combination of environmental and biological factors. Sweating too much, skin trauma, weakened immune system, prolonged dampness or mud exposure and bacterial infections are the main culprits behind greasy heel. Conditions that favor its development include constant moisture contact, low heel conformation, insect bites and abrasions from rough surfaces - all of which reduce the effectiveness of the skin's barrier against fungi, bacteria and mites that can trigger greasy heel. Hind limbs tend to be more prone to this condition as these organisms usually live in soil or bedding.

Greasy heel typically appears on lower limbs - especially non-pigmented areas where favorable conditions weaken the protective layer of skin even further. In early stages it causes inflammation with severe swelling in the affected area; sometimes scabs form on four legs while pus oozes out from lesions in more serious cases. You can recognize it by white limbs with greasy heal patches on them so it's important to treat it immediately as the underlying cause must be addressed for successful elimination of this issue. If left untreated, long haired horses may suffer significant damage to their skin due to additional trauma they experience over time.

To prevent greasy heel, horse owners should avoid wet weather/bedding/paddocks and provide adequate shelter from elements; if already affected, secondary infection must be prevented while any lesions should stay clean & dry plus get appropriate medication treatment ASAP! With proper care & attention you can successfully manage this condition thus preventing any further harm done to your horse's skin!


Symptoms of Greasy Heel

Greasy heel, sometimes referred to as pastern dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin condition that typically affects the lower legs of horses. It can cause great discomfort if left untreated and its symptoms include scaling and crusting of the skin, greasy or cracked skin on the heels and rear of the pants, excessive granulation tissue, fissures and papillomas, lameness, pain, reduced appetite and scabs that may appear crusty, scaly red and inflamed. In some cases it can become severely infected resulting in large scabs oozing pus and proud flesh. The condition is most commonly seen on feet with feathering at fetlocks, but all four limbs may be affected.

To diagnose greasy heels, a vet will assess the condition of the skin as well as test for bacterial/fungal infection or immune mediated conditions. Treatment includes topical/systemic antibiotics; anti-inflammatory medications; topical wound care; plus management of environmental factors which could worsen or cause it. Knowing its symptoms is key to properly diagnosing & treating this condition before it worsens & causes further damage & pain for your horse.


Diagnosis and Treatment of Greasy Heel


Diagnosing and treating greasy heel in horses is an essential part of managing the condition. Greasy heels can take time to develop and be quite complex, so a proper diagnosis is key to determining the most effective treatment plan for alleviating symptoms and halting its spread.

In the early stages, signs of greasy heel may be hard to spot and mistaken for rain scald. To accurately diagnose it, a vet should inspect the horse's hind limbs - particularly short-haired ones, which are often affected - for any severe swelling or lesions that appear symmetrically on their backs. If symptoms are serious, they may take a sample of skin for lab analysis or prescribe antibiotics to treat any secondary infection.

The right therapy depends on how bad the symptoms are and what stage of disease it's at. Mild cases can be treated with topical antibiotic ointments like prenoderm, Kelato Quickheal of white healer, applied directly onto lesions on skin; more severe cases might require soaking affected areas with copper sulphate/water solution or antiseptic wash - but do this cautiously as it could cause further trauma to skin!


Kelato Quickheal for greasy heel





Severe greasy heel may also need systemic antibiotics plus anti-inflammatory meds prescribed by vet; excess hair around affected areas might have to be trimmed too if healing is desired. Left untreated though, greasy heel can spread across all four limbs causing permanent damage to skin - so seeking veterinary advice ASAP upon suspecting your horse has it is vital!

By following these steps you'll ensure your horse gets the best possible care for greasy heel: accurate diagnosis + appropriate therapy will help prevent further harm & reduce the risk of secondary infection!


Prevention of Greasy Heel


Preventing greasy heel in horses is a must for horse care. To do this, keep your horse in a clean and dry environment, avoid churning up the paddock too much, and apply zinc/sunscreen to the pasture and coronet areas. Monitor the lower limbs regularly for any signs of reoccurrence.

For more serious cases, use topical 2-3% chlorhexidine solution twice daily. This contains sulfur and copper sulphate, which kill bacteria and fungi, making it hard for organisms to survive there again. Yellow lotion can also be applied with bandaging for two days if needed.

To stop greasy heel from happening at all, make sure your horse isn't exposed to wet conditions as this increases rain scald risk. Gently remove dirt or debris from their skin too so infection won't occur easily either. By following these preventive measures plus monitoring closely you'll ensure your horse's health stays good - early detection of greasy heel is key here so check those lower limbs often! If white socks or greasy heels appear, take action immediately to treat it promptly.


Home Remedies for Greasy Heel


When it comes to treating greasy heel in horses, there are several home remedies that can be used. To start, gently clean the affected area with warm water and mild soap. This will help remove dirt, debris and bacteria from the area. After cleaning, soak the limb in a warm antiseptic solution such as Betadine for up to 15 minutes - this reduces inflammation and eliminates any bacteria present.

Topical treatments like 2-3% chlorhexidine solution, coconut oil or a mix of Filtabac and vaseline/derisal can also be applied. For particularly bad cases try Yellow Lotion bandaged for two days or an antifungal wash such as Malaseb to reduce bacterial numbers. These home remedies will help reduce greasy heel appearance, decrease inflammation and eliminate bacteria.

When using these treatments remember to keep the area clean & dry plus use the correct treatment for your horse's type of greasy heel - it is important to consult a veterinarian before starting any treatment plan too!



Care Tips to Follow During Greasy Heel Treatment


When treating greasy heel in horses, it's essential to follow certain care tips for successful treatment. Gently use a soft cloth to remove any scabs that have already formed and lightly bandage the affected limbs to prevent infection. For long-term success, avoid sunlight exposure and use warm water to soak the region before removing scabs. Medicated shampoos, antiseptic ointments and natural softening agents like coconut oil or honey can soothe the area and aid healing. Keep the environment clean and dry by regularly cleaning the area - if greasy heel appears worse, consult a vet for correct treatment! By following these steps, you'll ensure your horse's greasy heel is treated effectively with lasting results.


Long-Term Care After Greasy Heel Treatment


Once the initial treatment of greasy heel is done, it's essential to follow up with long-term care. This includes removing any factors that may be causing the condition, such as wet and dirty environments. Applying topical solutions and soaks can provide relief while antifungal washes help control fungal infections. Barrier creams or ointments should also be applied to affected areas for prevention.

To limit the risk of greasy heel returning, preventive steps are necessary. Provide horses with a clean and dry environment, monitor their lower limbs for signs of reoccurrence, maintain stalls and paddocks to reduce dampness from urine - all these will help keep your horse healthy! Additionally, make sure the hooves are trimmed and balanced properly to avoid further irritation.

By following these tips you can ensure effective treatment of your horse's greasy heel - no more recurrences!


Factors to Consider Before Starting Greasy Heel Treatment


Before starting greasy heel treatment, certain factors must be taken into account. Severity is the primary and most important factor to consider, as more severe cases require intensive treatment. Pain or lameness should also be assessed, along with the risk of further trauma or infection due to the affected area. Preventive measures such as using emollients or sunscreen can help reduce the risk of developing greasy heels.

The environment should also be considered - for example, a shared stable with other horses could contribute to spreading the condition. The type of treatment plan used should suit each individual horse; not all horses will respond equally to the same treatment plan.

By being proactive and following a comprehensive care plan, you can ensure your horse's long-term health and happiness for years ahead.




Greasy Heel, or Mud Fever/Pastern Dermatitis, is a skin condition that affects horses' lower limbs and can cause lameness, intense pain and secondary infection if left untreated. While the exact causes are still unknown, it is thought to be caused by combination of environmental and biological factors. Early diagnosis and appropriate therapy are essential for successful treatment; preventive measures should also be taken alongside treatments such as bandaging, medicated shampoos and ointments, and home remedies like Betadine, coconut oil and Yellow Lotion.

After treatment, long-term care involves continuing preventive measures, proactive care and regularly trimming the hooves. It is important to consider the severity, environment, and type of treatment plan before starting greasy heel treatment for horses in order to ensure optimal recovery.

Through proper preventive care, early detection, and corrective therapies and treatments, greasy heel in horses can be effectively managed and overcome.


Popular Questions:

What is greasy heel in horses and what causes it?

Greasy heel, also known as mud fever or pastern dermatitis, is a skin condition that affects horses' lower legs. It is caused by a combination of factors, including prolonged exposure to moisture, bacteria and fungi, and damage to the skin from rubbing or trauma.


What are the common treatments for greasy heel in horses?

The common treatments for greasy heel in horses include cleaning the affected area with an antiseptic solution, applying a topical ointment or cream to soothe and protect the skin, and keeping the horse's legs dry and clean. In severe cases, a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or other medications to treat the infection.


How long does it take to treat greasy heel in horses?

The length of time it takes to treat greasy heel in horses depends on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of the chosen treatment. Mild cases may improve within a few days with proper cleaning and care, while more severe cases may take several weeks or longer to fully heal.


What can I do to prevent my horse from getting greasy heel?

To prevent your horse from getting greasy heel, it is important to keep their legs clean and dry, especially during wet and muddy conditions. Regular grooming and inspection of the horse's legs can also help to identify any early signs of the condition, allowing for prompt treatment. Additionally, providing a clean and dry living environment and avoiding shared equipment or grooming tools can help to reduce the risk of infection.


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