Ask Your Veterinarian Presented By Kentucky Performance Products: Spring Skin Ailments - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Ask Your Veterinarian Presented By Kentucky Performance Products: Spring Skin Ailments

Veterinarians at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital answer your questions about sales and healthcare of Thoroughbred auction yearlings, weanlings, 2-year-olds and breeding stock.

Question: Spring is often the time of year horses struggle with skin ailments due to humidity and wet weather. How do you recognize and treat the most common skin ailments and when do you need to call your veterinarian for help?

Dr. Ashton Broman: With the onset of the rainy and humid season, many owners may dread the thought of going out to the barn to find their horse has skin disease. While there is no single cure-all treatment for “skin disease,” there are distinguishing characteristics of common skin ailments owners can learn to recognize while also knowing when veterinary involvement is necessary.

With the onset of the wet season, one of the most common skin ailments is pastern dermatitis, commonly known as dew poisoning or scratches. Most owners know how to recognize this by the small scabs and sometimes cracked and painful skin along the pastern. Horses in wet, muddy conditions as well as those with non-pigmented skin (often with white hair) or long feathered fetlock hair are more predisposed to this condition. If caught early, clipping and washing the pasterns, gently removing the scabs, and keeping the pasterns as dry as possible can alleviate the problem. For more severe cases, there are medicated ointments containing anti-inflammatories and antimicrobial products that can be prescribed by your veterinarian and applied topically. Occasionally, dew poisoning can predispose a horse to more severe inflammation of the leg and lead to cellulitis. If you notice swelling up the leg with heat and sensitivity to the touch, call your veterinarian.

Some owners, when grooming their horses, will notice scabs or areas of hair loss along their horse's body and assume it is a fungal skin disease. While fungal disease of the skin is common especially during the rainy season, there are other allergic and bacterial causes. It is important to be able to differentiate between each to ensure proper treatment is started and it is recommended you work closely with your veterinarian to diagnose the problem and come up with an appropriate treatment plan.

Dr. Ashton Broman

Allergic dermatitis can often be seen as small, raised swellings along the skin with actively seeping or dried crusts which are often extremely itchy. It is usually seasonal, coinciding with the onset of spring and summer, with horses presenting with the same problem year after year. It is often caused by an allergy to insect bites but can also be due to reaction to certain chemicals or plants. As the foundation of treatment is prevention, it is important to identify the cause and attempt to prevent exposure. Because this condition is recurrent, some owners will become familiar with treatments to use for their particular horse and be able to implement treatment as soon as clinical signs begin to appear. Occasionally, some horses can develop a secondary bacterial infection so if you notice the lesions are hot or painful to the touch, contact your veterinarian for further treatment.

Rain rot, also known as rain scald, is medically termed dermatophilosis. While most assume it is a fungal disease, it is actually caused by a bacterium called Dermatophilus congolensis. It is characterized by areas of hair loss and scabs that easily flake off containing entire hair follicles. Lesions are usually concentrated to certain areas of the body such as along the croup, back, and face but can extend to any part of the body. Treatment consists of bathing the horse using medicated antimicrobial shampoos, regular grooming, and keeping the affected areas clean and dry. The scabs should be removed with the bathing, but carefully, so that the affected areas are not irritated. It may take more than one bath to effectively “de-scab.”

Ringworm is a skin disease caused by a fungus, not an actual worm. It is recognized by characteristic circular, flaky lesions with hair loss and tends to be concentrated in smaller areas with single or multiple lesions. This is important to identify because it is highly contagious between horses and may be zoonotic so it can be passed to humans as well. Treatment consists of the use of anti-fungal shampoos and topical anti-fungal medications. In severe cases not responsive to topical treatment, there are systemic treatments that can be used by your veterinarian.

For all skin diseases, early recognition is key so frequent grooming and attempting to keep horses in as dry an environment as possible are critical. Remember that brushes, etc. may get contaminated with the causative microorganisms, so be aware of the need to change grooming equipment between affected areas and between horses. While most common skin diseases are easily treated on the farm by owners, it is important to work closely with your veterinarian to ensure the correct treatment is being used and to recognize when veterinary intervention is necessary.

Dr. Ashton Broman was born and raised in Glendale, Calif., where she first developed her love of horses at the age of three. After high school, she earned her bachelor's degree at the University of California, Davis where she later worked as a technician at the veterinary school. She was accepted to Colorado State University for vet school and graduated in 2018. Dr. Broman started an ambulatory internship at Rood and Riddle with Dr. Brad Tanner in 2018, where she discovered a passion for equine dentistry and foal medicine, this passion was greatly increased during my second internship at Rood & Riddle. Dr. Broman plans on following her passion for dentistry and foal care in her new position as a Rood & Riddle associate.

She got married in 2020 and with her husband, Kris, and stepson, Bentley, has three faithful dogs and two beautiful horses.

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