Monday, July 30, 2012

Some advice about scratches

I've never had a horse with scratches/mud fever, but then I've never owned a chestnut hothouse flower. Riley has had raw ankles for 2 weeks now -- poor boy, he is a good patient. I've gotten good advice and will pass it along here. It is by no means the "full picture" of treatment, but here it is...

  • Forget bathing the area. I tried washing with anti-scratches soap and blowing his feet dry, but every time I did, his legs swelled up. I had better luck brushing dirt off with a rough towel and then medicating.
  • SMZs might be indicated, especially for horses with sensitive skin -- my vet said as a chestnut, Ri was at risk for cellulitis. So onto meds he went.
  • Nolvasan is very effective, but is hard to find. I got 2% chlorahexadine from California Vet Supply. I put that on in the mornings when he was spending the day in his stall.
  • For turnout, I put on a mixture of Neosporin and Desitin (1/1/). While this is overkill, I then covered it with cotton batting and then vetwrap from bulb to fetlock.
  • Exposure to air is great, but only in dry conditions. If you're turning out in moist conditions (e.g., morning dew) I would wrap.
  • I would not turn out in rain. 
  • I did clip his pastern area, but I probably would not do this again. I read later that the nicks that clipping creates can exacerbate the problem.
Deviating from any of these "rules" resulted in swollen hind legs. And again: Don't. Use. Water.

Any experiences you guys care to share?


  1. I had good luck keeping it under control with the Eqyss Micro-Tek spray (and shampoo), kept the area dry with anti-bacterial help and wasn't slimy. But only when it first appeared and more aggressive treatment wasn't necessary.

  2. If you have a Tractor Supply Company near you might be worth checking there for Nolvasan. That's where I found it in MI and again here in OH. Just a thought.

  3. Yes! Consider supplementing with Zinc and Copper. See here for more info -- Scratches

  4. One of my endurance horses had a TERRIBLE time with scratches. I live in the central valley of California so our climate is already dry and arid. My "solutions" might not work as well in your damp climate. I also found that a dry scrub was helpful. I actually found that a betadine scrub with a thorough towel dry did help. I also did a lot of dusting with Baby powder with cornstarch. I also "cleaned" the are with distilled white vinegar.

    An odd treatment, okayed by my vet, was a sauerkraut poultice. Gross I know, but the vinegar in the sauerkraut helps restore the ph balance of the skin. Begin by wrapping with cellophane. Leave an opening at the top, but wrap the bottom snugly. Pour sauerkraut into the wrap. Close up the top and cover the whole thing with vet wrap. Leave it on for three days. Once it's unwrapped, the skin will usually be a much healthy pink and the scabs will have shrunk. I know it's a weird and stinky mess, but it did work very well for my mare especially given our weather conditions.

    Best of luck.

  5. I have heard all sorts of stuff- sugar paste, saurkraute (sp?) and wrapping, no water on the affected areas, iodine or betadine scrubs and yes it is a pain in the butt to deal with.

  6. I can't seem to escape from "mud fever" or "rain rot" or "scratches," as all four of the horses I have leased/owned have been prone to these fungus "attacks."

    I find the best "cure" is to first wash the area (yes, with water, but only once!) with a prescription anti-fungal shampoo such as Malaseb. After the wash, I use a towel to dry the area. Once it is clean, I do clip, but not too the skin, just to shorten the hair so the skin dries more rapidly (so water isn't trapped by the hair).

    After that, mostly I just leave things alone! For protection, I sometimes use a desitin/cortisone/antibiotic ointment mix (2/1/1) bust mostly just leave it bare, as you noted. Any time the area does get wet (after a hose down), I make sure to dry it with a towel.

    BTW, a lot of people swear that the hoof supplement Nu-Foot will make horses resistant to mud fever. I have never tried it (picky eaters), but it might be worth a try.

    Good luck.

  7. Hope he gets over it..we get Nolvasan from QC Supply...never had a problem finding it. We use it for cold sterilization.

  8. From Bruce Davidson: If you clip legs, you must dry them every time you give your horse a shower. The feathers draw the water away from the ankles, thus generally preventing scratches. The best way to prevent scratches is to keep legs clean and dry.

  9. I've always resorted to Desitan, but my vet did give me an ointment that worked well too. I'm not sure what was in it as it was something he concocted.

    I do not wash or hose my horses a lot--or at least get their legs and feet wet, mostly because "overwatering" can make their hoofs soft and that's another problem. I sponge them off when I'm done riding instead and just try to keep their legs dry.

  10. My paint who is super sensitive to too many things to count got scratches last year (he has white on all four legs and thus is also more prone to it). Brushing his legs off gently to clean them up a bit and then applying Desitin seemed to work the best to clear everything up. Lately I have also been using Cowboy Magic's Krudbuster spray when I see anything start to scab and that has also worked well as a preventative measure. Good luck! I hated dealing with scratches!

  11. We've dealt with scratches for many years on various horses. Glenshee did an informative post if you're interested:

    We like to use Animalintex. It works really well. Good luck with Riley.

  12. Soaking in Clean Trax/H20 for 40 minutes (catch up on emails or blogging on your smartphone while waiting) works quickly in my experience. Then allowing to dry afterwards.

  13. I know this is going to sound weird and kind of minimalist after all the treatments you described. But, I have had 100% success with one program on every horse ... including my chestnut mare ...

    Get rid of scabs just like you would for rain rot, then apply 1/2 listerine, 1/2 baby oil or mineral oil in a spray bottle. Apply liberally, until it drips down. It has worked for me every single time. I've never had it get so bad that I needed SMZs.

  14. Wow, these are all really interesting perspectives! Guess there are as many ways to treat scratches as there are ways to treat thrush. ;-) I hope Riley's legs clear up soon, no matter what you do it sounds like a pain in the neck.

  15. No Thrush worked like a charm when my mare got scratches. I dusted it onto my hand and then brushed it up and down her legs. Cleared it up in three days. This was after washing with Novalsan every day for two weeks did nothing.

    You should make sure he's getting enough copper and zinc in his diet. Once I started supplementing my mare with California Trace to get her extra minerals she stopped getting scratches.

  16. I had a warmblood that came to me with such bad scratches that he couldn't walk, his legs were bleeding and cracked and falling apart. It all started when he first arrived in Florida after living in Germany and they shaved his hair AGAINST the grain. NO NO NO!! It opened his skin up to so much bacteria infection. It was HORRIBLE. I couldn't ride my imported PSG horse for over a month after he arrived at my barn. #growl

    We washed, yes with water, once or twice a day with Malasab.. SCRUBBING as best he would let me and then letting it sit for about five minutes before washing it off. Dried the area thoroughly. Covered the area with Fura-Zone, then wrapped the whole infected area with gauze and then vet wrap. Keeping the area from cracking further and from drying out was the only way the poor boy could walk. Everything improved dramatically very quickly but wasn't all gone for a couple months. This was a very severe case, and I had to continue to scrub his legs with Malaseb frequently and let them air dry about twice a week for the next few years while I owned him. I didn't have to treat with Fura-Zone or wrap them after the initial treatment though.


  17. I've found Thermatex leg wraps to be useful -don't know if you can get them in the States though. I put them on wet legs or muddy to dry them.

  18. I used to give lessons on a Gypsie Vanner horse with leg feathers. He had very persistent scratches. The vet prescribed a topical agent, daily washing, combing and drying and the horse could not share grooming tools with any other horse. We resorted to clipping his very thick feathers at one point, but this did not help, and just made him look silly. Taking care of those feathers was a nightmare and the horse was visibly uncomfortable (literally scratching his legs all the time). Sorry, but we didn't have great success.

  19. If you feed alfalfa, I had heard that it can also aggravate scratches. I cannot remember, right now, where I got that information but I had told a friend about it when her mare was dealing with persistent cases of scratches. She stopped feeding her mare alfalfa and discovered that the scratches cleared up rather quickly, for the first time. She didn't have any more cases of that afterward.

    If you want, I could research that information and provide you with a citation. I just don't remember right now where I first heard about the alfalfa/scratches connection.


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