Annoying skin condition #1 – SCRATCHES

One of THE most difficult conditions to treat, in my opinion, is scratches.  Known also as dew poisoning, muck itch, pastern dermatitis, cracked heal, greasy heal, and probably a bunch of other names I haven’t even heard of – bottom line – it’s annoying, chronic (comes back over and over), and progressive (gets waaay worse without treatment!) – o yes, and it really HURTS them!  It must be addressed!

Scratches can also be very difficult to treat because it is essentially a symptom of an underlying problem.  Possibilities are sensitive skin, skin allergies, photosensitization, lowered immune systems or even a reaction to skin mites.  It can be fungal, bacterial, viral or even parasitic.  It typically attacks light skinned legs, and can be aggravated by bathing too often, wet or muddy pastures, or even conditions that are too dry!

If left untreated, this condition can (and will!) lead to swelling in the legs, and can even turn into a systemic infection.  It’s just bad.

In my experience, the BEST way to treat scratches is as follows:

  • apply a thick coat of vaseline to affected area; wait 24 hours
  • with gentle care, scrub off the scabs (the vaseline helps the scabs come off with minimal discomfort to the horse)
  • apply an iodine shampoo, scrub, let sit for 10 mins
  • rinse with water, dry, and apply a topical antibiotic

The above steps should be followed every other day until all the scabs are healed.  Clipping the hair in the area can help, as well as a thick coat of vaseline to protect the healing skin.  In severe cases or when it just won’t heal, an oral antibiotic may be needed.


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