Expert Horse Advice

Relieve Rain Rot

Rain rot is not considered life threatening & may clear given time & a better environment. Most importantly try to minimize horses’ exposure to wet conditions if at all possible & keep tack C-L-E-A-N!

 I usually use topical aloe vera gel & tea tree for most skin conditions but there are many convenient products specially prepared for rain rot. Remember to watch the infected area closely to make sure it isn’t spreading.

Healthy Horse Hints™ By Shari Frederick A NATURAL APPROACH to Rain Rot-gives you a variety of ways to treat and prevent rain rot.

HHH: A stressed immune system, compromised skin, poor hygiene, & a weakened immune system can lead to Rain Rot . When horses are kept continuously outside in poorly drained pastures or muddy paddocks, the conditions are favorable for skin problems such as rain rot, also called rain scald, and mud fever. Rain rot and mud fever is caused by the same bacteria (dermatophilus congensis), although it acts like both fungus & bacteria. Rain rot generally refers to all areas of the body. Mud fever is associated more with crusting of the pastern and heel area where wetness causes skin to crack and bacteria from mud gets into the horse’s circulation and causes infection.

HHH: Commonly found over the rump and topline, rain rot lesions may follow a rainfall “run-off”, dribbling, or “scald line” pattern. The hair becomes matted together in groups of oval shapes. Close observation reveals a portion of the hairs are embedded in thick dried crusts. If you try to remove one, it may be dry, scaly, ulcerated, bleeding, and contain pus. Patches of hair fall out.

HHH: It is virtually impossible to establish infection on undamaged skin. Skin damage and moisture are the two most important factors in the development of rain rot. Skin damage can come from a simple small lesion made by thorny plants or biting flies. The infection, when transmitted from lesions to the mouth of ticks, can survive for months. Non-biting and biting flies can house the infection for 24 hours. Prolonged overcast and intense rainfall is a key factor to release these rapidly reproductive infective spores.

HHH: Today’s scientific findings are still undecided about the natural habitat and specific factors causing rain rot. It is suggested that soil may temporarily house the organism. It is also thought to exist dormant on an animal until the climate is favorable (high temperatures & humidity).

HHH: Bacterial and fungal diseases are difficult to diagnose without testing. Veterinary testing may include a skin scrape of the affected area to be examined under a microscope; followed by culturing. Further examination under an ultraviolet light may identify the organism source. Fluorescent results can rule out the fungal ringworm.

HHH: Previously infected horses do not necessarily develop immunity to re-infection of rain rot. Warm moist climates create frequent recurrence of rain rot if susceptible horses cannot escape the wet weather. Moisture is trapped under the hair allowing fungus or bacteria to grow on the skin. Horses with sensitive skin may over-react to fly bites causing persistent itching, which in turn may lead to further damage from the horse rubbing himself raw thus increasing the chances for further infection.

Rugs made of light cotton or shade cloth can be used during fly biting season over the body and neck. There are even special fly boots for severe needs for leg protection.

HHH: Initially treat all skin diseases as if they were infectious. Some fungus is very difficult to kill and can spread. Unless you absolutely know what you are dealing with, wear disposable gloves when applying topical creams to infected areas. Avoid bacteria transfer. Use a disposable spatula. Never stick dirty fingers back into a preparation. Keep the affected area clean and dry before and between applications. Properly dispose of utensils, as well as all crusts or sores which are removed!

HHH: Do not use the same tack on multiple horses; especially if a fungus is known or suspected. Regularly bask tack in the sun to help kill fungus. Wash tack that touches the horse after every use. Properly dry tack to avoid mold. Allow for good air circulation during storage.

Treatment options for rain rot:

Acupuncture and acupressure can be used to stimulate the immune system
Aromatherapy along with Essential oils is an option.
1. Essential Oils are best diluted in a carrier, such as aloe gel, before applying directly to the skin. Suggested blends for hair loss, inflammation, soreness, and other rain rot bacterial infection related symptoms include:

10ml aloe vera gel as a base.
10 drops each of Frankincense, Myrrh,Patchouli, and yarrow.
Blend in 5ml of linseed oil.
Add Chamomile water gradually (up to 100ml) until there are no separations.
Store out of direct light and extreme cold in a jar or bottle for up to 1 year.
2. Use a few drops of lavender in aloe vera gel to stimulate healing. Alternate with tea tree oil ointment for the immune system, or try lemon and litsea cubeba essential oils.

Helpful Herbs:
1. Fresh chickweed herb boiled in lanolin to make a cream; or crush it in your hand and rub on itchy areas for immediate relief. Add the crushed herb to aloe gel for easier application.
2. Herbal blends specially prepared by an herbalist should include red clover, licorice, Echinacea, fenugreek, and violet to help with blood cleansing to rid toxins and reduce skin sensitivity. If the horse’s immune system is run down, or depleted by prolonged itching or distress, offer the herbs rosehip and maritime pine bark. Vervain and hypericum strengthen the horse’s nervous system.

Homeopathy can be used when rain rot is first noticed. Upon onset of rain rot use:
-30c Aconitum napellus to fight infection.
-Try 30c Arnica. Follow with 6c Aconitum if infection occurs.
-If rain rot follows vaccination use Thuja.
-Tellurium is mentioned for rain rot use.
-Consider Arsenicum or Graphites for weepy sores.
-Massage a little Hypericum oil gently to affected patches to treat sensitivity.

Tea can be made using dried chamomile flowers or tea bags. Spray the tea on a damp coat to soothe the skin. The chamomile is naturally drawn down the hairs to the skin. You can add some hypericum oil, but be sure to agitate the sprayer to assure the oil is released. (Any left over chamomile tea can be used directly on the horses feed.)
Poultices are excellent to draw out infection. Put slippery elm powder on a clean cotton pad. Soak with hot water, cool to warm, wring out excess water (but keep the gel) and apply to affected area for at least an hour if possible.
Sprays, such as diluted lemon juice or vinegar (100ml) added to antiseptics like 5ml eucalyptus or thyme oil, and 4 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed are easily applied supports for rain rot. (Caution- May sting sensitive open areas). Add 5ml of Thuja to the spray for additional antifungal properties.
Tonics are a great addition to a horse’s diet to avoid susceptibility to rain rot.
-Nettle is high in iron, increases circulation, strengthens the blood, and improves the immune system. Use 1-2 cups of nettle (dried or fresh) in 1 liter of water, boil, cool, and add to the horse’s drinking water.
-Dandelion, either a few leaves daily or also offered as a tonic tea is a good support for the liver, along with St. Mary’s thistle.

Topical salves help soothe and heal. Alternate or use one or more of the following:
1. propolis cream

2. aloe vera gel (soothes itching and encourages new hair growth)

3. tea tree @ 10 drops per 1 pt of warm water.

4.Colloidal silver can also be rubbed on, and has even been used against Staph infections.

5. Make a preparation of Vitamin E oil, Aloe vera gel and 5ml of hypericum oil for topical use. After inflammation has subsided try comfrey ointment or rosemary oil 1-2 times a day to encourage new hair growth.

More Tips:

  • Feed a balanced natural diet to include seaweed meal. Offer minerals, especially copper and sulfur, which are needed for keratin to support hair growth. Include garlic in the diet for its antiparasitic properties and to discourage biting flies. Avoid chemical residues. 
  • Bach Flower remedies specific to support stress reduction, help to alleviate the stress contributing to a lowered immune system. (Consistent routines for meals and turn out are important factors to reduce stress as well.)
  • Manure removal and covered compost heaps help discourage fly breeding. Pasture rotation also aids in avoiding parasite exposure.
  • Plant insect repellent plants in the garden and around the barn. Include tansy, garlic, lavender, rue, citronella scented geraniums, and wormwood.
  • Shelter provides a dry area for the horse to get out of wet weather. Along with a strong immune system, it offers the best defense against rain rot.
  • Sunshine is an important support for skin diseases, & can kill fungus. Even if the animal is stalled, allow a minimum of 1 hour turnout in the sun.
  • Washes containing 20% copper sulfate and a cup of cider vinegar in 1 qt. water will assist killing any fungus. (Dilute for sensitive skin).

Check out these products!
Natural Horse Vet’s Grape Balm 1-877-873-8838
Natures Balance Care Skin Condition Kit 1-866-821-0374
Silver Linings #10 maintenance blend & #24 immune builder 1-866-543-6956
Frogworks carries Pete’s Equine Remedy 303-973-8848
Esprees Natural Antibacterial Healing Spray 1-800-328-1317
The Sauce by Equilite Inc 1-800-942-5483

Here's to a Healthy Horse!
Shari Frederick Healthy Horse Hints™ Happy Horse Haven™ Rescue

Category: Ask the Expert

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Opinions expressed herein are those of the experts consulted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the editors and publishers. The information in this publication is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to medically prescribe or diagnose in any way. ~ Holistic Horse Inc.