Rain rot, also known as rain scald, is a severe skin infection that causes scabs and lesions on a horse’s skin. Typically rain rot is found on the body of the horse, though it can spread all over the skin’s surface. Additionally, rain rot is extremely contagious and can be passed from horse to horse.
Horses who contract rain rot are usually subjected to wet conditions for long periods. When a horse’s skin remains wet for an extended period, the outer layer becomes soft and compromised. Once the outermost layer of skin begins to break down, cuts and other abrasions can quickly form.
According to Vet Poultry, there are multitudes of bacteria and other microbes that live on your horse’s skin, and most of them pose no direct threat to your horse’s health. However, when these bacteria and other microbes get underneath the surface, they can cause serious health issues like skin infection, commonly referred to as rain rot.
While rain rot is a pain to deal with, it is fixable, provided you are diligent and proactive about treating the infected areas. For the most part, rain rot is easily diagnosed, but if you are unsure, your Vet can perform a quick test with a small sample of the infected skin.
Should you fear that your horse has contracted rain rot, do not wait to treat the issue! This helpful guide for how to treat rain rot on horses has everything you need to safely and comfortably treat your horse.
Step One: Remove The Scabs
Rain rot symptoms most commonly show itself as scabs and lesions on a horse’s skin. Sometimes mistaken for ringworm or staph infection, rain rot is a bacterial infection rather than a fungal infection. The bacteria that causes rain rot is alive underneath the surface of the skin, which is why the scabs that appear on your horse can ooze.
Removing the scabs is a delicate process and can be painful for your horse. Fortunately, certain items help make scab removal an easy process for you and your horse.
Hydrogel is one such item that helps with scab removal. Applying a generous amount of a hydrogel to the scab riddled area will not only help loosen the scabs but also condition the skin around the lesions.
Being that rain rot is caused by compromised skin, including hydrogel as a method of removing your horse’s scabs, is a great way to clean and protect the affected area and help the healing process.
The other item you will want to employ during scab removal is a brush with medium strength bristles. Using the brush, you can lightly swipe over the scabs until they are loose enough to pull away.
Sometimes the act of brushing will cause the scabs to fall off on their own. This is why brushing is much preferred as the scabs falling off on their own is much less painful for your horse than pulling the crusty scab away.
Step Two: Clean The Infected Area
When it comes to cleaning rain rot, removing the scabs is the first step to ensure the infected skin is exposed. Once the scabs are cleared away, it is time to begin the sterilization process.
The Horse Equine Health Care suggests using an antimicrobial shampoo to bathe the horse, reminding owners to dry thoroughly. You may want to wash the whole horse to ensure the infection can’t spread to other parts of the body. After the bathing with a good equine shampoo is complete, dry thoroughly!
Once your horse is dry and clean, spray the affected areas with an antimicrobial spray to help fight infection and prevent any further spread. Keep your horse dry and re-administer the antimicrobial spray daily. Only bathe the infected horse every 3-4 days until the rain rot has subsided as over bathing may make the condition worse.
Preventing Rain Rot
Prevention is the best way to keep your horse healthy and safe. The best method of treatment for any skin condition is a diligent effort to keep skin healthy and protected. Especially for rain rot, ensuring that your horse is not susceptible to conditions linked to rain rot is an essential step in proactive, preventative treatment.
Keep Your Horse Dry!
This includes not only correctly caring for your horse’s hygiene but also keeping a tidy stable. Many horses who fall victim to rain rot are susceptible to wet conditions in their pens.
Keep your horse and their environment dry to prevent rain rot from forming on your horse’s skin. Practical Horseman recommends that horse owners employ the use of waterproof blankets as an additional measure of protection.
Watch For The Warning Signs
Pay attention to your horse’s coat and skin. If you notice any swelling or minor cuts, use an antimicrobial spray to stop the infection before it begins. Keeping a close eye on your infected horse is a best practice for rain rot prevention.
Equine rain rot can be a nuisance for horse owners and a pain for horses. However, with the right antimicrobial shampoo, and a diligent attitude, rain rot is easily treatable. Due to its contagious nature, it is best to keep any horse dealing with rain rot isolated from the rest of your horses.
If you are concerned that the infection may have become too advanced for at-home treatment, contact your Vet immediately. Rain rot is easily preventable and can be stopped by addressing any cuts or minor abrasions with a trusted antimicrobial spray or wound liquid. Your horse’s skin is the first line of defense in preventing rain rot. Make sure you are doing what is necessary to protect your horse’s skin and coat!
Dr. Melinda J. Mayfield-Davis, DVM, WCHP-AH, brings over 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine. She is the Technical Services Veterinarian with Innovacyn, Inc., parent company of Vetericyn Animal Wellness. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University and now resides in Southeast Kansas with her husband, two children, four dogs, and six horses. Prior to working with Innovacyn, Dr. Mayfield owned and operated the Animal Care Center in Columbus, KS.