Rainy Day Equine Issues

— Written By Barbara Linder

We certainly have had a lot of much needed rain lately. According to reports from the National Weather Service, the Piedmont Triad International Airport received 4.48 inches of rain in July and has already measured 3.93 inches thus far in August. We are fortunate to be getting rain here in central North Carolina, since many parts of the country are in a severe drought.

With all of the rain we have received, there are important steps you should take to keep your equine healthy during these rainy days. A horse that has been standing in the rain for extended periods of time, and therefore standing in mud and wet grass, can suffer from an array of hoof and skin issues.

Dermatophilus congolensis is the bacterium that causes our rain related equine skin health issues such as “rain rot” and “scratches.”  When found on the heels and pasterns, “scratches” or “mud fever” is gray and cracks. “Rain rot” (also called rain scald) can develop all over the horse’s body, but most commonly presents as raised scabs on the rump, back, and front part of cannon on the hind legs. These conditions can be treated with 2‐5% lime sulfur or 4% chlorhexidine solutions in the form of sprays or shampoos. Betadine shampoos and other antibacterial sprays can also be effective. It is very important that you keep you horse dry during this time in order for the bacteria to clear.

These bacteria can spread through grooming tools, so it is very important to sterilize your brushes, combs and curries if you have a horse that has rain rot or scratches. This includes washing all of your brushes in a bleach solution and letting them dry thoroughly. Otherwise, the bacteria can be spread to other horses that share the grooming tools. Grooming your horses thoroughly and often during periods of intense moisture can help by allowing air to the coat, and provide you with an opportunity to check your horse for fungal disease or injury.

Additionally, horses standing for prolonged periods of time in muddy paddocks, stalls and pastures can suffer from hoof ailments. Intense moisture that penetrates a horse’s hoof can cause fungal diseases such as thrush. Wet periods followed by hot dry days can cause hooves to crack and lead to problems such as white line disease or abscesses if horses are not properly trimmed every 6-8 weeks during the summer.

Stall mats, gravel, or wood chips can be placed in paddock and stall areas to prevent horses’ hooves from sinking in to the mud, and making your farm a muddier mess! Also, install gutters on the roof of barns and other shelters to channel water away from paddock and turn out areas. Establishing a “sacrifice paddock” for horses to be turned out in during rainy periods will preserve grass and prevent horses from slipping when running and playing on wet pastures.

Finally, it is of utmost importance to make sure that your horses’ vaccinations are up to date during the summer. Wet conditions and standing water can cause mosquitoes to breed aggressively and thus spread West Nile Virus. Other mosquito-borne illnesses include Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis, Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE and WEE) and Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).