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How to Treat and Prevent Rain Scald in Horses

a horse with rain scald

Rain scald is a common equine skin problem that can cause serious discomfort and distress to horses. It is important for horse owners to be aware of how to treat and prevent this condition for the emotional and physical wellbeing of their horse.

In this article, we will explain how to identify rain scald in your horse and discuss measures you can take before and after onset to help keep your horse healthy and comfortable. We will also touch upon the causes and treatments of this skin condition and associated conditions caused by or resulting from rain scald as well as discussing prevention strategies.

Combining these topics will help ensure your horse’s coat remains free from recurrent infections.

 

Short Summary

 

  • Rain scald is a bacterial skin infection caused by Dermatophilus congolensis, characterized by matted coat, bumps, crusty scabs, and lesions.

  • To treat rain scald, a combination of topical and complementary treatments such as shampoos, ointments and creams, burdock, calendula, propolis cream, aloe vera gel, tea tree oil, and systemic antibiotics should be used in conjunction with proper hygiene and management of horse factors.

  • Prevention of rain scald can be achieved through providing proper shelter, controlling ticks and insects, using medicated shampoos and creams, regular grooming, and keeping the horse dry.

 

What is Rain Scald?

 

 

A horse with rain scald on its skin

 

 

 

Rain scald is a bacterial skin infection caused by Dermatophilus congolensis that usually affects the back and rump of horses.T he infection is also known by various other names including rain rot, rain scald or mud fever. Rain scald is triggered by wet weather and can be extremely painful for horses, especially in severe cases. The affected areas may appear as a few flat scabs or a more severe case with matted scabs and raw skin. They may also look like scabs lying on top of the skin or even underneath the surface.

Ticks, biting flies and contact with other infected animals are the most common causes of rain scald. This disease can cause severe irritation and skin damage. In mild cases, the same bacteria may cause similar scabby lesions called mud fever which can occasionally affect the lower limbs. It is a common skin condition in horses, usually characterized by crusty scabs on the skin. Horses are at risk of developing rain scald when they are exposed to wet conditions and are not kept adequately dry.

It is important to be aware of the risk factors for rain scald and take the necessary steps to prevent it from occurring in your horses. Keeping your horse dry in wet weather and avoiding contact with infected animals can help reduce the risk. Additionally, maintaining good hygiene for your horse and using insect repellents to keep biting flies away can help protect against rain scald. If you suspect your horse has rain scald, it is important to seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible. Treatment involves cleaning the affected areas with an antiseptic scrub and applying antibacterial agents such as medicated shampoos or ointments. Some home remedies like coconut oil, Vaseline, or zinc oxide creams can also be used to cover the area.

 

Signs and Symptoms of Rain Scald

 

Rain scald is a skin condition that affects horses, and it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this condition. Rain scald, also known as ‘rain rot’ or ‘streptothricosis’, is caused by the bacteria Dermatophilus congolensis. It is most commonly seen in horses during wet weather, but may occasionally affect horses in dry weather due to insect bites or other skin irritations. The signs and symptoms of rain scald include a matted coat, bumps, crusty scabs, and lesions. In severe cases, the coat of the horse's back and rump will become hard and painful. There will be many scabs lying next to each other on the surface. Severely affected horses may develop a fever, be depressed, inappetant and lethargic, with swollen lymph nodes.

In mild cases of rain scald, the horse may have just patchy hair loss and a few flat scabs that remain damp, even when the weather has dried up. This is commonly referred to as mud fever. The same bacteria can also cause similar scabby lesions on the lower limbs, which are called mud fever. The infection affects the surface layer of the skin and can cause mild inflammation and matted scabs. Biting flies can also cause itching and irritation and can occasionally affect the face of infected animals.

When inspecting affected areas, the skin underneath the matted scabs should feel slightly moist, but not wet. If the skin is wet, it could indicate a secondary bacterial infection. To diagnose rain scald, a skin scraping or hair pluck may be necessary. A laboratory examination will be able to differentiate between ringworm and rain scald.

 

Diagnosing Equine Rain Scald

 

 

A veterinarian examining a horse with rain scald

Image source: https://www.camdenequinecentre.com.au

 

 

 

In order to diagnose rain scald, it is important to confirm the diagnosis. Diagnosis is initially based on the appearance of the skin and the clinical signs, as well as the environment in which the horse is kept. Rain scald is more commonly seen in wet weather, but can also be caused by other skin diseases, insect bites, or severe reactions to bacteria and fungi when the skin is exposed to wet conditions. It can be difficult to differentiate between rain scald and other skin diseases, such as rain rot, as they can have similar symptoms, such as patchy hair loss. However, rain scald typically only affects the skin underneath the hair, whereas rain rot is more likely to affect the skin and hair both.

To confirm the diagnosis of rain scald, a skin scraping or hair pluck may be taken for laboratory examination. This allows the veterinarian to identify the causal fungi or bacteria and make a definitive diagnosis. A skin biopsy may also be useful in some cases, particularly if the clinical signs are severe or if it is necessary to differentiate between a bacterial infection and a fungal infection.

In addition, a cytologic examination of fresh, active crusts and/or impression smears of the moist part of a fresh scab can also reveal the presence of bacteria or fungi. This can help to distinguish between rain scald and other skin conditions that can resemble rain scald.

Skin biopsy, skin scraping, and hair pluck are all useful methods for confirming a diagnosis of rain scald. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the veterinarian can then develop an appropriate treatment plan for the horse.

 

Treating Rain Scald on Horses

 

Treating rain scald in horses requires a combination of topical and complementary treatments. For horses stabled or kept in wet weather conditions, the best way to prevent rain scald is to keep the horse dry (waterproof horse rug) and groomed. If the horse does develop a rain scald, the first step should be to remove the crusty scabs and wash the area with a mild disinfectant soap or shampoo. This will help to remove any bacteria that may be present, as well as additional dirt and debris that may be contributing to the infection. In severe cases, a vet may prescribe systemic antibiotics, but in mild cases this may not be necessary.

Once the area is washed, a greasy or oily preparation such as Vaseline, coconut oil, or a zinc and castor oil preparation can be applied to the affected area to help keep the skin from becoming further irritated. This will also help keep the area protected from the elements and will help the horse's skin to heal quicker. The affected areas should be dried completely after application of the product, either with a hair dryer or by leaving them out in the sun.

It is important to remember that rain scald can be incredibly painful, so it is important to take the necessary steps to prevent and treat it.

 

Topical Treatments

 

Topical treatments are an effective way to treat rain scald in horses. A mild shampoo, such as Heritage Downs Intensive Skin Treatment, can be used to treat the affected areas. This product is specifically designed to treat conditions such as rain scald and mud fever, and can help reduce the severity of the condition. It is important to note that in severe cases, a vet may need to be consulted to assess the situation and prescribe a more appropriate treatment.

In addition to washing the affected areas, topical treatments such as ointments and creams can be applied. Ointments and creams such as Fungazol or White Healer can be applied to the affected areas. These products can help to reduce inflammation, reduce pain, and help the skin to heal faster. It is important to remember to dry the area completely after application of the product.

It is also important to remember that in severe cases of rain scald, the coat can become matted, and the bumps may progress to crusty scabs and lesions. In these cases, it is important to clip the affected areas to remove the crusty scabs and apply a medicated shampoo to the area. This will help to reduce the severity of the condition and can help the skin to heal faster.

It is essential to identify the areas with active infection when treating an infected animal. Treating only those areas will help contain the infection. This will help to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other areas of the body. It is also important to remember that medicated shampoos can strip the protective barrier oils from the outer layer of skin, so it is important to only use these products when necessary. It is important to follow the instructions of a veterinarian when treating rain scald in horses to ensure the best possible outcome.

 

Complementary Treatments

 

Complementary treatments for rain scald in horses include burdock and calendula. These herbs are known to reduce inflammation, pain, and promote healing. They can be applied topically as a cream or ointment or ingested as a supplement. In some cases, a homoeopathic remedy may be prescribed. This is most effective when taken in a 30c potency twice daily.

Topical treatments such as propolis cream, aloe vera gel, and tea tree oil may also be used. These products can help to reduce inflammation and promote healing. It is important to remember that factors such as environmental conditions and complicating factors such as immunocompromise from Cushing's disease can make it take longer to cure. It is also important to remember that the size of the affected area can affect how long it will take to treat.

In severe cases, systemic antibiotics may be necessary. A vet may also need to prescribe a drug for pain relief, such as naproxen. An ivermectin/moxidectin based horse-wormer can also be effective in killing mites that complicate the infection. It is important to remember to always use a broad spectrum antibiotic preparation when treating infected animals.

By using these complementary treatments in combination with proper hygiene and management of horse factors, horse owners can help ensure their horses remain healthy and free of rain scald. This includes checking the lower limbs on a regular basis, clipping the affected areas if necessary, and ensuring that the affected areas remain damp and not overly wet. It is also important to remember that biting flies can occasionally affect an animal's skin, and can cause excessive discomfort. So, it is important to use a mild insect repellent to help reduce the risk of developing rain scald.

By using these topical and complementary treatments in combination with proper hygiene and management of horse factors, horse owners can help ensure their horses remain healthy and free of rain scald. It is important to remember that rain scald can be incredibly painful, so it is important to take the necessary steps to prevent and treat it.

 

How to Prevent Rain Scald in Horses

 

To prevent rain scald in horses, there are a few steps that can be taken. The first step is to reduce the horse's exposure to moisture. This can be done by providing proper shelter such as a stable, barn, or an enclosed area, and using blankets or rugs to keep the horse dry. Additionally, controlling ticks and insects can help reduce the risk of rain scald as they can transmit bacteria that cause the condition. The use of medicated shampoos and creams can also be helpful in treating and covering the affected areas.

The second step is to ensure good hygiene practices. Grooming and cleaning the horse regularly is essential in preventing rain scald. After the horse is dried, it is important to apply a broad-spectrum antibiotic powder, spray, or ointment to the skin. This will help to reduce the risk of bacterial infection and can provide relief from any discomfort caused by the condition. Additionally, it is important to keep the horse dry and to avoid exposing them to wet conditions for prolonged periods of time.

By taking the necessary steps to reduce the risk of rain scald, you can help ensure your horse's health and comfort.

 

Management of Horse Factors

 

Proper stable management, including dry footing, good ventilation, and general cleanliness, can help prevent rain scald in horses. Additionally, reducing exposure to moisture by providing proper shelter and blanketing the horse can also be effective. Horse owners should also be aware of the environmental conditions that can affect the skin's susceptibility to rain scald. Hot humid weather, stress, immunocompromise, and poor nutrition can all exacerbate a rain rot skin problem in horses. If a horse is continually suffering from rain rot, it is important to organise a stable or undercover yard during periods of heavy rainfall. This will help to reduce the amount of moisture on the skin and decrease the chances of developing rain scald.

The use of a topical treatment such as zinc and castor oil, Vaseline, or an antibiotic ointment can also help to waterproof the horse. This may help to reduce the risk of developing rain scald, as well as other skin conditions such as greasy heels and insect bites. Additionally, mild disinfectant shampoos can also be used to help reduce the presence of dermatophilus and other bacteria that can contribute to the development of rain scald.

 

Hygiene Matters

 

Hygiene matters are an important part of preventing rain scald in horses. It is important to groom the horse regularly to remove any loose hair and dirt. When grooming the affected parts of the horse, it is important to be gentle as the area is likely to be itchy. Additionally, using a waterproof synthetic rainsheet combo rug during periods of heavy rain can help keep the horse dry and prevent insect bites. This will help to reduce the risk of developing rain scald.

It is also important to ensure that the horse is completely dry after bathing or swimming. This will help to prevent rain rot, as the bacteria that cause the condition thrive in wet conditions. It is also important to note that the presence of moisture can exacerbate a mild case of rain scald, as the infection can spread quickly in wet conditions.

 

Mud Fever Can Be Incredibly Painful

 

 

A horse with mud fever on its lower limbs

 

Mud fever can be incredibly painful for horses and can cause a great deal of discomfort. It is caused by prolonged damp, mild conditions, standing in deep mud or soiled bedding, and constantly washing limbs before and/or after work. Symptoms of mud fever include scabs and sores on a horse's legs, particularly at the back of the pastern, between the hoof and fetlock. In some cases, a secondary bacterial infection may also occur. Treatment may include antibiotics and pain relief, depending on the severity of the condition.

It is important to take the necessary steps to prevent and treat mud fever in horses, as this condition can be quite painful and severely affect their quality of life. Horses should be kept in clean and dry environments, and their legs should be dried carefully after exercise. Management of [horse factors] such as weight, shoeing, and environment is also important for preventing rain scald in horses. Hygiene practices such as washing the legs regularly and using protective equipment such as leg wraps can also help prevent the condition.

By taking the necessary steps to prevent and treat mud fever, you can ensure your horse is comfortable and healthy. If the condition is severe, it is important to seek veterinary advice and follow their instructions carefully. With proper management and care, horses rain scald and mud fever can be prevented and treated successfully.

 

Summary

 

Rain scald is an unfortunately common condition that affects horses, with wet and humid weather commonly being its instigators. Fortunately, many ways exist to prevent as well as treat the intense pain and discomfort this skin condition can cause in horses. What’s most important for horse owners is to pay attention to changes in their horse's health and behave proactively when spotting symptoms of Rain Scald.

When it comes to prevention, horse owners should practice proper hygiene, use medicated shampoos, be aware of environmental conditions such as shelter, footing, and ventilation, and control ticks and insects. When it comes to treatment, owners should look into topically applying disinfectants and ointments as well as using complementary treatments like burdock, calendula, propolis cream, aloe vera gel, tea tree oil and systemic antibiotics. As always, it’s ideal to consult with a vet who possesses the necessary knowledge and experience to create an individualized treatment plan and take the appropriate action.

In conclusion, although rain scald is no fun - especially for horses, there are preventive measures that can help one avoid this distressing condition, while keeping horses healthy and free from pain and discomfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat rain scald on horses?

To prevent further infection, the area should be kept dry with a waterproof blanket or full coverage turnout sheets in wet weather. The wound should also be cleaned with an antiseptic solution to remove any scab or debris.

For Rain Scald treatment, exudates can be wiped off with a clean cloth and a topical antibiotic such as chloramphenicol or fucithalmic oil applied. Moreover, administering systemic antibiotics can help control secondary bacterial infections.

Treating rain scald requires removing crusts and scabs from affected areas, keeping them dry, and using topical and/or systemic antibiotics. This will help minimize discomfort and maximize healing for your horse.

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