Pastern Dermatitis Signs and Treatment

March 02, 2018 3 min read

Pastern Dermatitis is commonly referred to as Mud Fever, Dew Poisoning, Greasy Heal, or Scratches. This condition in horses can be caused by a variety of skin conditions including viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections; however, it isn’t normally an infection from one organism. Instead, it’s caused by viscous wet versus dry cycles causing the skin on the back of the pastern to chap. When these cycles occur, various microorganisms that are already in the environment (or on your horse’s skin) take advantage of these tiny cracks to invade and multiply – ultimately leading to redness, pain, swelling, and an oozy discharge that can crust over creating a scabbed appearance. This can affect all breeds and is found most often within horses that have long fetlock hair or that are housed in unsanitary conditions. Pastern Dermatitis can also occur from standing in excessively moist and/or dirty environments such as consistently walking through muddy and/or wet grass. Frequent bathing, wind, or cold temperatures can also be causes of Pastern Dermatitis. Skin can split in severe cases, but more commonly horses just have very itchy scabs with thickened, flaky skin. It’s a chronic, progressive, and painful equine skin condition that infects the deep layers of the skin primarily in the heel, fetlock, and pastern areas of the horse.

Clinical Signs:

1. Thickening and scaling of the skin 2. Slight Lameness 3. Sensitivity 4. Swelling 5. Itching resulting in self-trauma and bleeding 6. Loss of hair 7. Purulent discharge (Yellow, thick, and often foul smelling) A specific diagnosis can be obtained through skin scraping, cytology, bacterial and fungal cultures. In most cases Pastern Dermatitis is a management problem.

Steps to Successful Treatment:

1. Remove the horse from the wet or muddy environment. 2. Clip the hair surrounding the affected area. Furthermore, to prevent future outbreaks, you can keep the lower leg hair clipped on your horse (body clipping length using no. 10 blades). We especially recommend doing this on white colored legs (i.e. stockings, socks, etc.) as the white-pigmented skin is more susceptible to Scratches. 3. Keep the affected areas clean. Gently wash with a mild shampoo (we have had great success with Head & Shoulders®). As you wash, try to remove the loose scabs, but be careful – you do not want to cause bleeding. 4. Dry the area very well using a clean towel. This step is very important! Having the area completely dry is vital to the healing process. 5. Apply an ointment that helps to treat fungal and bacterial skin conditions.(We have had great success with Bacitracin®) 6. Keep the area clean by covering it with a leg-wrap or an equine sock. Bandaging and wrapping the legs can also prevent future outbreaks as well as keep swelling down during an outbreak. Benefab® By Sore No-More® can also lend a helping hand with our Antimicrobial Therapeutic Pastern Wraps. These wraps are one of the newest products to the line and are extremely beneficial for Pastern Dermatitis. They're made from premium, antimicrobial therapeutic fabric that reduces growth of bacteria while enhancing overall circulation. They feature a strong Velcro closure with an adjustable fit for larger horses, too. In addition, the classic Antimicrobial Therapeutic Versi-Wrapscan be used as an alternative, or for other conditions like fungus. The VersiWraps' cushioning provides comfort to your horse while the ribbing feature allows for ample breathability and flexibility. Both are the perfect equine accessories to protect your horse’s legs and pasterns!


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