North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - News -

We have seen many cases of rain scald in the last cou­ple of months with the in­creased mois­ture and hu­mid­ity. Rain scald is caused by the bac­te­ria Der­mo­tophilus con­golen­sis in horses.

If left un­treated, it can be quite a painful and ir­ri­tat­ing con­di­tion for the horse. It causes a moist der­mati­tis, which ap­pears as scabs and clumps of hair mat­ted to­gether.

When these scabs lift off, there is no hair or ‘alope­cia’ un­der­neath. The ‘rain scald’ part of the name de­rives from the fact that mois­ture such as rain on the le­sions will track the bac­te­ria else­where on the body. Thus it typ­i­cally oc­curs over the back/dor­sal mid­line.

Young and old horses are gen­er­ally af­fected more fre­quently, but it can oc­cur in horses of any age/breed/sex.

Thick hair coats may hide the scabs ini­tially un­til the rain scald is quite ad­vanced, and also acts to keep mois­ture around the le­sions. ‘Rain scald’ is also a bit of a mis­nomer, as it fre­quently oc­curs in horses that are rugged and tech­ni­cally haven’t had any rain on them!

Treat­ment must in­volve re­moval of the scabs, as they act as a con­tin­ued source of in­fec­tion.

The horse should be washed thor­oughly in an an­tibac­te­rial such as chlorhex­i­dine or io­dine. Scabs should be re­moved with a brush or fin­ger­nails. Dry­ing the af­fected ar­eas is im­por­tant, as mois­ture and hu­mid­ity will en­hance the spread of the bac­te­ria.

A bit of sun­light will help too rather than a heavy rug that they might sweat un­der.

In most cases ‘rain scald’ is a rel­a­tively su­per­fi­cial in­fec­tion that will clear up with top­i­cal an­tibac­te­ri­als. Deep in­fec­tions may how­ever re­quire sys­temic an­tibi­otics such as peni­cillin. These would be very painful ooz­ing sores. Don’t ig­nore the small scabs – early treat­ment is very ef­fec­tive.

Dr Sarah Cav­ill.

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