Rain Scald In Horses: A Concerning Equine Skin Condition?

During seasons of heavy rainfall, it’s essential for anyone who owns horses to think about how the rain and inclement weather might impact their animals.  Since rain scald (also known as rain rot) in horses goes hand in hand with the rainy season, it is a legitimate concern for horse owners. As one of the more contagious horse skin conditions, the dermatological condition can also develop into a serious issue if not taken care of promptly. This article will discuss not only how to identify this troublesome equine skin ailment, but how to prevent and treat it.

What Causes Rain Rot In Horses?

Also referred to as rain scald or dermatophilosis, rain rot in horses is a very common skin infection caused by Dermatophilus congolensis, a bacteria that lives on the skin. While this bacteria is primarily dormant on the skin’s surface, it can cause harmful inflammatory infections under wet conditions, resulting in lesions on your horse’s skin and coat. These lesions eventually form into hair matted scabs, which deeply affect the back area and rump of the horse, but sometimes reaches the lower limbs as well. Because it thrives in damp environments, rain scald is most often observed during the winter months. Worse yet, if the horse’s skin is constantly wet and cracked, it can also become infected with other secondary bacteria, such as staphylococcus.

Identifying Rain Scald: Knowing What To Look For

Much as the name itself indicates, rain scald in horses often appears as though the skin has been scalded by hot water droplets. The affected areas will discharge a sticky secretion, matting the hair together, resulting in crusty scabs. Other signs of dermatitis – particularly over the saddle area and loins – may also appear.

In milder cases, one may observe just a few flat scaly patches that contain matted hair on the horse’s coat. When the scabs are removed from the hair, the skin will appear raw and somewhat moist. However, in severe cases, the coat along the horse’s rump and back will feel hard to the touch, consisting of multiple scabs in a concentrated area. Upon removal, the scabs will typically reveal raw, bare skin. Occasionally, rain scald may also affect the face.

In the event that the infection spreads to the lower limbs of the horse, it is known as mud fever, resulting in very similar scabby crusting and lesions of the skin. In either scenario, this is an uncomfortable and painful skin infection for horses and can be easily prevented with proper care, adequate shelter, and appropriate grooming hygiene.

For those who are unfamiliar with the appearance of rain scald, it’s easy to confuse it with different equine skin conditions, such as sweet itch in horses, ringworm and other parasitic dermatological infections. In any case, it’s important to contact a vet in order to diagnose what type of skin infection the horse is suffering from, as well as determine a course of treatment.

Rain Scald Prevention: How To Protect Your Horse

One of the most effective ways to protect your horse from experiencing the pain and discomfort of rain scald is prevention. Horses require adequate shelter for their coats to completely dry out, since their hair holds onto moisture. Repeated and long-term exposure to the elements without giving the horse’s coat a chance to dry off can negatively affect the delicate skin underneath, making it prone to infection. During rainy seasons, experts recommend a field shelter if possible.



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