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Rain Scald Prevention and Treatment

Rain scald over the horses back and quartersRain scald over the horses back and quarters

Rain Scald, Prevention and Treatment

Horse Health feature – Rain Scald in horses

Rain scald and mud rash are just a couple of the problems that plague horses, and their owners, over the winter months. As the weather begins to change we are now faced with different seasonal skin diseases to deal with in our horses and ponies. Here we take a look at rain scald, where it’s likely to strike, prevention and treatment.

What is Rain Scald?

Rain scald (or Rain Rot) is a superficial dermatitis in horses caused by the bacterium Dermatophilus Congolensis. This bacterium is a normal inhabitant of the skin, but excess moisture and humidity causes dispersal and penetration of the ’spores’ and infection occurs. It is most commonly found along the horses back, neck and head. The clinical symptoms of the disease are clumps of matted hair with an ovoid shaped scab underneath. The under surface of the scab will often have hair roots protruding through, giving the appearance of a ‘paint brush’. Horse’s are not often itchy with rain scald, but the scabs can be painful to remove as the skin is painful and oozes serum. Severe cases may mean you are unable to ride your horse due to the painful lesions under the saddle area.

Rain scald over the horse's back and quarters

Rain scald over the horse’s back and quarters

Rain scald on the horse's neck

Rain scald on the horse’s neck

Confirming Diagnosis of Rain Scald

Diagnosis of rain scald can usually be confirmed by clinical symptoms, however your vet may take a hair-pluck, skin scrape or swab to certify the disease.


Prevention of Rain Scald

Good management can easily prevent rain scald. Horses should be kept dry with appropriate rugging and stabling in the wet weather. The condition can be contagious between horses by sharing of grooming brushes; clippers, numnahs and other equipment, so take sensible precautions regarding biosecurity measures. If your horse gets caught in a downpour, make sure you thoroughly dry him before placing any rug on.

If your horse gets caught in a downpour, make sure you thoroughly dry him before placing any rug on

Treatment of Rain Scald

Spontaneous recovery can occur between 3-6 weeks, provided appropriate control and group eradication measures are in place. Horse’s receiving topical treatment will heal faster. The bacteria are susceptible to chlorhexidine and povidone-iodine washes, and these washes should be used to help remove the scabs and treat the underlying skin lesions. Topical antibacterial creams can be helpful, and in severe cases systemic antibiotics may be warranted. Washing grooming brushes in disinfectant and avoiding sharing tack and equipment with other horses will help prevent spread of the disease.


Horses do not develop immunity to this condition. If your horse has had it once, it may suffer again in the future, in wet conditions. It is best to consult you vet if you think your horse may have rain scald so they can advise on the most appropriate treatment

Reasons for Treatment Failure

The key is to treat all affected horses. If a chronic carrier is not treated appropriately then they may be a source of infection to other horses.

Repeated exposure to the wet weather will significantly decrease the success of treatment. As well as topical treatment it is vital that appropriate rugging and shelter is provided. Special care should be taken for the elderly, immuno-suppressed horse or those diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. If there is an underlying disease process, your horse may not respond as anticipated to treatment, and advice from your vet should be sought.

Similar conditions – Mud Fever, read more here

Written by Nancy Homewood BVetMed MRCVS, Hook Norton Vets ⌋ With thanks to XLEquine

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