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Dermatophilosis, better known as “mud scab”, is a bacterial infection that mainly affects horses living in the meadow when the soil is wet. It is manifested by oozing scabs that appear most frequently on the horse’s limbs at the pastern, but also (less often) on the back line, the rump and the withers. The infection is transmitted through infected soil, but rarely between infected individuals.
The first reflex to adopt for the treatment of horse scabies is to mow the infected limbs in order to prevent moisture from forming in the pasterns. Then clean carefully with an antiseptic soap, such as Betadine Scrub, Chlorhexidine or even Marseille soap (just as effective!). Remove the scabs from the limbs if they fall off by themselves (do not remove the scabs at all costs, to avoid over-inflammation of the limbs). Then rinse thoroughly and dry the infected area as much as possible with clean cloths. Finally, apply an antiseptic and healing ointment to the wounds. Repeat this operation at least once a day, ideally twice a day. On the advice of a veterinarian, the sick horse can be given antibiotics. If you have the possibility, take your horse back to the stall while it heals from the infection, so that its limbs remain dry.
As mud scab appears mainly on damp floors, you may choose to take your horse into the stall in bad weather to avoid exposure. If your horse lives exclusively in the meadow, you can buy waterproof gaiters in the shops that cover the hoof up to the knees, keeping your horse’s limbs dry. You can also maintain your pasture to prevent muddy surfaces from forming, especially around racks or water points. Rubber tiles can be easily installed if the ground does not settle.
You can also give your horse dried herbal feed supplements, which are effective against seasonal skin problems. It is also essential that your horse’s diet is well-balanced in order to strengthen its immune system. In particular, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids strengthen the resistance of the horse’s skin to bacteria. Amino acids, zinc and vitamin B promote the production of keratin, which will protect the horse’s skin from moisture.