Scratches has been a chronic problem for Maggie’s horse Gracie. Scratches can also go by the name of pastern dermatitis, mud fever, or greasy heal. It is a problem that is a bacterial or fungal infection that is found on the horse’s lower limbs. Scratches is more commonly found on lighter colored horses. It is caused by a constant moisture penetrating delicate skin. In Gracie’s case, she often gets scratches when she has a cut on her lower leg. Moisture and bacteria then penetrates the wound. Our weather in Idaho usually leads to a lot of rain during the early summer months which can turn parts of her corral to mud. The mud contains the bacteria or fungus, which is a factor in your horse contracting scratches. Scratches can also be extremely contagious so if another one of your horses has an open wound you might end up with more than one horse having scratches at a time.
Scratches can be very painful for your horse. As the condition progresses, hair is lost, the area becomes thickened and crusted over, and scabs of a yellow watery serum form. This condition is painful to the touch and can often result in it being difficult to treat your horse as your horse may try to kick. So exactly how do you treat your horse if they develop scratches? Like we mentioned Gracie has been a repeated offender of scratches. We have tried many methods to rid her of this skin condition when it arises. Some of the methods were reasonably priced while others can be quite spendy. People have tried many kinds of remedies to get rid of this such as cellophane encased with sauerkraut or athletes foot cream. Even veterinarians have their own concoction of medications they use. If any of you would like to share what methods you find most helpful please do.
One of the main things to keep in mind when treating a horse with scratches is to keep the area as clean and dry as possible. Any added moisture can result in keeping the area from healing. One of the first things we tried when Gracie would get scratches was cleaning the affected area first with Povidone-Iodine Surgical Scrub and patting the area dry. We would then cover the area in Shapley’s M-T-G and follow up by covering it with Corona. Sometimes this process would be affective in curing the scratches, but it took a lot of dedication. One of the problems with this method was the Corona, because it is a major dirt collector. The more dirt drawn to this area the harder it is to cure. Also getting the area clear of the scabs is a big step in curing this condition. By using these products it didn’t soften the scabs enough, which caused us to do a lot of picking which can make the infection worse. We have also tried using just Vetericyn on the area which can soften the scabs but still wasn’t getting rid of them like we had hoped.
While the two methods above can get rid of the scratches with little cost on your end, Gracie ended up getting a case of scratches at one point that we could not get rid of with the above methods. So Maggie tried the more expensive route since it seemed like the condition was getting out of hand. Maggie decided it was time for her to take a trip to the vet. Gracie ended up spending two weeks at the vet. During this time they shaved the hair surrounding the infected area. She got intravenous steroids, was scrubbed and cleaned daily, and then vet wrapped to keep any dirt or moisture out. While this was an extreme case, it was also a very expensive solution costing over a thousand dollars.
Since then Gracie suffered from scratches again. We took all the things we have learned over her past cases and found a new product that worked really well and was also way less expensive then a trip to the vet. The product is called Fungasol, which is made with tea tree oil. It comes in three different products, a shampoo, ointment, and spray. We have only tried the shampoo and ointment, but have had such success with those two products we are sure the spray wouldn’t disappoint. Fungasol can also be known to treat other skin conditions such as rain rot, girth itch, or ringworm. When treating scratches, shaving the affected area is something that isn’t a must but it really can help in speeding up the healing. The first thing we did with this product was clean the area with the Fungasol Shampoo. We let that sit and soak into the area for about 5-10 minutes before we washed it off. We then patted the area dry or let it air dry before slathering it with the Fungasol Ointment. This ointment is better than Corona in the fact that it doesn’t attract as much dirt and it really helps to soften the scabs which makes for a less painful and much easier removal. We repeated this process once a day. After cleaning the area we found that this was the best time to remove any of the scabs that are now not attached after being treated with the ointment. After removing any of the scabs that we no longer attached we again covered her in the ointment. We repeated this process until she was cured. I believe it took Gracie about a week to completely heal.