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Equine Scratches - Diagnosis & Treatment

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote, featured in  Horse Talk Magazine.  Pick up a copy at your feed store (it is free) or go online to read the rest.  Several people have told me already how helpful it is and that makes me feel great! Equine Scratches, Diagnosis and Treatment by Kate Moga, DVM.  Olde Towne Equine, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“Clean and dry, clean and dry” is what I tell horse owners after treating a patient with pastern dermatitis.

Scratches”, “mud fever”, and “greasy heel” are all familiar terms for pastern dermatitis, a common equine skin problem. Technically, pastern dermatitis is not a single disease but a generic skin reaction to a variety of causes. The dermatitis typically involves the back (caudal aspect) of the pasterns and if not addressed can spread to the front of the pastern. Initially signs may be limited to redness and scaling, but they often progress to oozing of fluid (serum) from the skin, matting of hair, and development of crusts. Chronic cases can become very ugly indeed, as the skin becomes thickened and swollen. It may even develop bumpy, mass-like tissue. This condition is very painful for the horse, and can cause lameness in some cases.

“Scratches” is most commonly seen on white-colored hind legs of all breeds of horses. It can be unilateral (one sided), or bilateral (involving both right and left limbs). It may affect all four legs. Many cases seen in our region are from contact allgery and involve a secondary bacterial infection, but other causes include contact irritation from caustic substances, mites, fungal infection, and photosensitization related to pasture plant toxicity.

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