What is Rain Rot?
Rain rot which is otherwise known as Rain Scald is one of the skin infections that affects horses. Rain rot is caused by the bacteria Dermatophilus congolensis. Although rain rot is one of the common skin infections that affects horses, it isn’t as severe as it looks. The down side is it takes time for hair to grow on the affected parts that has experienced hair loss. Not to worry, at we provide a simple yet effective and painless treatment method to combat this common horse infection.
So what exactly is rain rot?
As stated already, rain rot or rain scald on horses is caused by Dermatophilus congolensis. Rain rot on horses is characterized by crusty scabs formation on the skin which peels off along with hair thereby leaving the skin exposed. Rain rot often affects parts of the body that are not shielded from rainfall which includes the back, neck and the top of the head. Rain rot is peculiar to places where heavy rainfall, high humidity, warm temperatures, and presence of insects create suitable growing conditions for the bacteria. These bacteria multiply greatly during humid weather, such that they cause irritation to the hair follicles and skin of horses.
The early sign of rain rot or rain scald in horses is the crusty crabs that forms on the horse’s back and rump which eventually causes hair loss. Rain rot occurs mostly in the summer and spring time, this is the time when the warmer temperatures of the rain provides the required environment for the bacteria to grow and multiply. Rain rot can also occur during the winter period when temperature changes cause sweat to form on the horse’s skin thereby making the skin the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria.
The common symptom that horse owners need to watch out for is hair loss. Horse owners will find the hair standing up as little tufts as opposed to the typical look of horse hair. And when you run your hand through it or brush it lightly, the hair will fall off. A mild case of rain rot in horses will leave the horse with smooth and hairless skin area on its back. On the flip side, a severe case will cause hair loss and open sores on the back that can become infected thereby giving room to greater skin issues. Rain rot may start off as individual lesions that has a spotty pattern on your horse’s body. If left unattended to, the lesson may open up into more expansive areas and expose bare skin.
For the bacteria responsible for this disease to gain access to the natural skin of a healthy horse, one of the following must happen:
- In the event of trauma on the skin such as abrasion, scrape or wound
- Excess moisture on the horse’s skin that washes away the layer of natural protective oils
- Insect bite
One or any of these event can give the bacteria access to penetrate the outer skin layer of the horse. When they gain access, the bacteria spore then begin to spread. The immune system of the horse responds to this invasion of skin territory by releasing proteins and white blood cells in excess which builds up to form small bumps containing pus on the skin. These are known as pustules. These bumps can be felt when you run your hand along your horse’s back.
The pustules begin to ripen and as that happens, the skin layer underneath dies off which in turn results in the dead skin cells clumping together around the surrounding hairs to form scabby tufts that takes the shape of tiny paint brushes. When this happens, your horse will experience itching on the back and should he scratches the area, chances are he will wreck the skin further thus spreading the infection.
As stated earlier, Rain rot may start off as individual lesions that has a spotty pattern on your horse’s body. And If left unattended to, the lesson may open up into more expansive areas and expose bare skin. Upon falling off of the scabs and hair, the exposed skin appears raw and red. Now if the owner removes the predisposing environmental factors (which could be shielding your horse from rainfall), the skin can heal itself within seven to ten days and new hair surfaces.
On the flip side, if the owner doesn’t remove the environmental factors, (take for instance if the horse is still left to stand in the rain without any protection), the horse is at the risk of suffering from rain rot throughout the winter period.
If rain rot in horses is left untreated, it can result to secondary infections such as Staphylococcal folliculitis. In rare cases, the multiplying bacteria population can overwhelm the immune system of the horse wherein the horse will prone to pain fever, loss of appetite, discomfort in addition to hair loss.
Unfortunately, some horse owners often mistake rain rot for fungal diseases such as ringworm which aren’t really common. Such owners can start with antifungal medications that will not have any effect on the bacteria. So identifying this condition, that is making the right diagnosis is extremely crucial. You can consult your veterinarian to carry out lesion culturing or you can simply watch out for the clinical symptoms of rain rot.
Healthy horses with no record of skin infection can heal from rot without any treatment provided the environmental factors contributing to the infection are taken care of. If your horse is left to wander as he likes, ensure he has a shed to run to during periods of rainfalls. As a preventive measure, you can get a light breathable sheet to protect his body from the rain. Avoid using heavy blankets that may trap moisture against his skin.
Make a habit of washing his tack and equipment thoroughly and should he develop sores in the saddle area, give him a break from riding as the saddle can trap moisture against his skin and cause discomfort with the sores. More importantly, horse owners should pat their horse’s body dry after bath and keep them inside until their coats dries completely. And in the buggy season, consider spraying insect repellent on a regular basis.
These preventive measures will help prevent your horse from having rain rot. But in the event where your horse has already developed rain rot, our Medicated Shampoo treatment options will suffice.