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  • Writer's pictureDrs. Luedke

What to do about Scratches in horses?

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

Scratches, also known as pastern dermatitis, is a common skin condition that affects horses. It is characterized by red, inflamed skin on the lower legs and feet. Scratches can be very uncomfortable for the horse and can lead to infection if not treated properly.

The best treatment for scratches will depend on the severity of the condition. Some common treatment options include:

  • Cleaning the affected area: Scratches can be treated by cleaning the affected area with a mild soap and water solution. This can help to remove any debris or bacteria that may be contributing to the infection. Be careful not to pick at scabs! This opens up the area to infection.

  • Applying medicated ointments or creams: Medicated ointments or creams can be applied to the affected area to help soothe the skin and prevent infection. Your veterinarian can recommend the best product for your horse. Often times we recommend a combination of medicated anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and corticosteroid in a cream base.

  • Trimming the hair: In some cases, trimming the hair around the affected area can help to improve air circulation and allow the skin to heal more quickly.

  • Providing supportive care: It's important to keep your horse clean and dry, and to provide a balanced diet to support its overall health. This can help to prevent scratches from occurring and can also aid in the healing process.

  • Ruling out underlying causes: sometimes photosensitivity or systemic allergies can be the cause of recurrent dermatitis lesions.

It's important to work closely with your veterinarian to develop the best treatment plan for your horse's scratches. In severe cases, antibiotics may be necessary to treat the infection. Leaving horses with untreated dermatitis can lead to cases of cellulitis or lymphangitis which requires emergency care.

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