Is Fungus Among Us
Dermatophytosis, a fungal skin
infection, is common in horses. Fungi
live in the environment (dirt, mud,
shavings, straw and hay) and on the
hair and skin of most horses.
When the horseís immune system is
weakened and/or the protective
defenses of the skin are compromised
a pathological infection occurs.
"Scratches" refers to a skin problem
on the legs of horses caused by a
fungus (and sometimes complicated
by bacteria) where the skin becomes
crusted, scabby and thickened,
creating bumps and open sores.
Chronic repeated excess moisture is
one of the most common causes.
This may be from hot humid weather, standing in wet grass or mud,
getting frequent baths, cold hosing/soaking feet and legs, the
liniments, wearing leg wraps and sweating under them, or any
combination of things.
Another cause is contact dermatitis from chemicals applied to the
horse or found in the footing, bedding, or
pasture that creates an inflammatory response. Horses eating certain
plants, such as red clover and alfalfa, may
exhibit photosensitive reactions and get sunburn on the white/pink
areas of their body leading to infections.
Here are some ideas to help:
- Prevention by keeping the legs clean and dry while avoiding mud,
wet grass and irritants. Use sunblock
on sensitive areas.
- Clip the hair to improve drying and aid in removing scabs and
- Wash the infected areas with an antibacterial/antifungal shampoo,
allowing at least 10-15 minutes
contact time to soften the scabs and kill the organisms before
rinsing. Then dry the area.
- Most prescription topical medications will contain an antibiotic,
an antifungal and a steroid (to reduce
inflammation). Silver sulfadiazine and Desitin are often helpful.
- Severe cases may require oral or injectable medications as well.
Consult your veterinarian.
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