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Protect horses from rain rot skin disease

News Release Distributed 10/14/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – Horse owners should take precautions against rain rot, a skin disease that can flourish in Louisiana’s wet and humid weather, according to LSU AgCenter equine specialist Neely Walker.

Rain rot, or dermatophilosis, is caused by a bacterium that lives dormant in the horse’s skin until the skin is damaged.

“Rain-soaked skin or skin that is broken, irritated or damaged by insect bites or trauma is more likely to develop the condition,” Walker said. “Heavy winter coats allow excess moisture to stay in contact with the skin, which also facilitates bacterial growth.”

Horses with winter coats will develop raised, matted tufts of hair along their neck, withers, back, croup and hindquarters. If not cared for, the lesions will continue to grow and combine, creating scabs with yellow-green or gray pus underneath them, Walker said.

To treat rain rot, owners should remove crusty, scab-like lesions to expose the damaged skin to oxygen. Walker recommends bathing the affected area with an antimicrobial shampoo, like Betadine or Cholorhexadine, and gently removing lesions with a brush or curry comb. Severe cases may require systemic antibiotic treatment.

Rain rot is extremely contagious. Walker offers the following tips to prevent spread of the disease:

– Groom daily with clean brushes.

– Isolate infected horses.

– Clean contaminated equipment before using on another animal.

– Use an insect spray to reduce skin trauma.

– Avoid sharing grooming kits.

– Protect horses from wet and humid conditions.

Mild cases of rain rot usually heal on their own, Walker said, but it is important to treat all cases to prevent lesions from spreading and interfering with daily use. If you suspect your horse has rain rot and antimicrobial treatment is ineffective, contact your veterinarian.

Olivia McClure

Last Updated: 10/14/2014 2:14:45 PM

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