Scratches: Treatment and Prevention of the Equine Fungus

September 13, 2017 2 min read

Equine Scratches are also commonly referred to as Mud Fever, Dew Poisoning, Greasy Heal, or Pastern Dermatitis. Scratches on 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 vs. 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 disorder can affect all breeds and is found most often within horses that have long fetlock hair or that are housed in unsanitary conditions. Scratches 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 scratches. 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.

Symptoms to Look For and Expect with Scratches:

  1. Itchiness
  2. Sensitivity
  3. Swelling
  4. Thickened Skin
  5. Odor
  6. Slight Lameness
  7. Bleeding
  8. Hair Lossequine fungus horse scratches
  9. Excessive Scabbing

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 Versi-Wraps. Our VersiWraps are made from premium, antimicrobial therapeutic fabric that reduces growth of odor-causing bacteria while enhancing overall circulation. The cushioning of the wraps will provide comfort to your horse while the ribbing feature allows for ample breathability and flexibility. Our VersiWraps are the perfect equine accessory that can provide protection to your horse’s legs and their versatility allows them to be used as a standing bandage or a polo liner. Check them out >>> Here. PC: Horse Talk Magazine


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