Why some horses develop cellulitis while others don’t isn’t well understood, so it’s impossible to identify definitive ways to prevent the infection. “Sometimes in a horse that had some dermatitis or we find a small scratch, we suspect that was what set it off,” says Margaret Mudge, VMD, of Ohio State University, “but there are many horses that have mild dermatitis or lots of cuts and scrapes that never develop cellulitis.”
Nevertheless, taking some basic precautions to protect the skin on your horse’s legs will not only keep him healthier and more comfortable, but might just help you ward off this terribly painful infection:
• Clean and disinfect even the smallest of wounds. “As soon as you notice anything abnormal, it should be treated promptly and appropriately,” says Meg Hammond, DVM, of Woodside Equine Clinic in Ashland, Virginia. Call your veterinarian for help with deeper, more serious wounds.
• Maximize turnout and/or get the horse regular exercise. Moving around stimulates healthy circulation in any horse, but it’s especially critical for those prone to cellulitis.
• Keep the skin dry. Muddy, sloppy turnouts
Go easy on the shampoo. Over-exuberant soaping up will dry out skin and may lead to cracking.
• Groom carefully. Removing long hair on the legs can help keep the skin drier, but be careful not to scratch the horse with the clippers. Also use only soft brushes and rags on the legs.
• Sterilize grooming and bathing equipment periodically. Newer washing machines have a sterilization option that can heat rags and towels to a temperature high enough to kill most bacteria and other pathogens. Brushes and other tools can be sterilized by scrubbing them with soap and water before soaking them in a bleach solution and laying them in direct sunlight to dry. Avoid sharing tools among horses, especially if one is prone to chronic cellulitis.