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Rain Scald And Horses

Posted by Caribu Team on September 17, 2019

Rain scald, dermatophilosis, rain rot or streptothricosis are a common form of skin disease, commonly found in horses. It is caused by bacteria, which is the same organism that causes Mud fever in horses. Ticks, biting flies, and contact with other infected animals can also cause the spread of rain scald. Once in the skin, the bacteria can cause inflammation of the skin as well as the typical symptoms associated with rain scald.

The following link has a range of product suitable for rain scald treatment.


Two different form of rain scald often manifests: the winter form, a more severe form due to the long coat of the horse, and a summer form, which is less severe. Horses are usually affected on the back, head, and neck, where insects commonly bite, and the legs, which are commonly infected if the horse is kept in moist paddocks. Initially, the horse will display a matted coat and bumps which will then progress to crusty scabs and lesions. The animal may also be itchy and display signs of discomfort.

The right horse rugs can protect your horse from developing rain scald in many different ways. Insect bites are a persistent source of skin damage in horses, which can make them more vulnerable to infections. Horse rugs, particularly fly mesh rugs, can help prevent insect bites and indirectly protect your horse from additional infections in the process. Since insects can carry the bacteria that causes rain scald, horse rugs can stop your horse from even coming in contact with the bacteria in the first place. Fly mesh rugs also don't retain moisture very well, and rain scald bacteria do not thrive under dry conditions. Horse rugs can be instrumental in both preventing and addressing rain scald. Using a Waterproof Synthetic Rainsheet Combo rug in heavy rain will also help keep the horse dry and rain scald free. If your horse has already had a case of rain scald, rugging them when it rains is even more important.


Diagnosis is most commonly done with the identification of bacteria in the lesions your vet will be able to access. Ticks, biting flies, and contact with other infected animals also cause the spread of rain scald.


Rain scald normally heals on its own, however as the condition can spread to involve large areas, prompt treatment is recommended. Although some cases can be severe, most rain scald is minor and can be easily and cheaply treated at home naturally.

First groom the affected parts carefully, to remove any loose hair. Be extremely gentle, the area is very itchy and horses will very quickly get fidgety. Next shampoo the area, use warm water and a soft cloth or brush, and massage the lather through the coat as much as the horse will tolerate. Something such as our Heritage Downs range can assist, as this will treat as well as clean, but any mild shampoo is fine. Remove as much water as possible and dry the horse off, either use a hair drier or let him/her stand in the sun until completely dry. It is important not to let the horse roll! The rain scald bacteria may be picked up from the soil.

When the horse is completely dry, gently brush off any more loose hair. Next, apply a Heritage Downs Intensive Skin Treatment to the affected area. Rub it in using fingertips, massage the area as much as the horse will tolerate. This will be very greasy. Smooth the hair back down and apply a rug to keep the horse dry. Turn the horse out as normal.

Check it every day, and reapply the Heritage Downs Intensive Skin Treatment if it seems to have died away. Every 2–3 days or so, go through and scrape/pick off as much of the scabs as possible without upsetting the horse or making it bleed, then reapply. Typically there will be an improvement in a few days, and in a week there'll be some sign of new hair growing back. More severe rain scald may take longer.

Once all the scabs are gone and there is new hair fuzz growing in all over, Heritage Downs Horse Shampoo Concentrate to clean the area of greasy residue, and dry well. Keep the horse covered for some time after rain scald has been treated, particularly in wet weather. Do not allow the skin to remain damp. It is advisable to shampoo the horse after riding or exercising, to remove sweat, which may encourage rain scald conditions, and make sure the coat is completely dry afterwards.

This treatment works in many ways. First, shampooing cleans the area of any contaminants, remove a lot of loose hair and scabs, and the rubbing stimulates the circulation. It soothes the irritation in the area, and its greasiness provides the ideal environment for the raw skin to heal and grow new hair. It also helps to soften and lift the scabs. The new hair cannot grow in until those scabs are removed from the surface, but they are very painful to pick and remove, and most horses are intolerant of this procedure.

Typically the disease is not life-threatening, nor does it impact the welfare of the horse.


In order to prevent rain scald, it is important to stop the spread of the bacteria. Tick and insect control is an effective way to stop the spread of the bacteria from one animal to another. As well, separating infected animals will help to stop the spread of the bacteria. Keeping the animal in a dry, well-ventilated area out of the rain and wet conditions will stop the bacteria from growing. This dry environment includes dry ground as well as dry air.