Rain Scald In Horses

Rain Scald In Horses: Watch Your Stable!

There’s nothing more important to a horse owner than the health of your majestic beast.

When we’ve got some wet weather all around, rain scald in horses is a major concern. The weather can be kind of unpredictable sometimes, and we aren’t the only ones affected!

That’s why it’s important to understand what rain scald is, how to stop it from happening, and how to treat it properly.

What Is Rain Scald In Horses?

Rain scald (though some people call it rain rot) is a skin condition that can appear in horses, mainly due to wet and muddy conditions. Rain scald is not infectious, so you don’t have to worry about it transferring from one horse to another or even to yourself!

Bacteria just keep growing in wet weather and moist areas. When the horse’s skin stays wet for a long time, it becomes vulnerable to infection.

What does rain scald look like?

When rain scald appears on horses, you’ll see scabs and matted hair on affected areas of horses’ skin. It can show up as areas of pink skin under the scabs with a slightly greasy appearance in the early stages.

Light-coloured horses may be more likely to show obvious signs of rain scald because their skin is lighter. You might even see some loose hair around the affected areas sometimes, especially if there is excess grease production. Rain scald is usually around the back and rump of affected horses, but it can also mess with other areas, mainly when there is prolonged wetting of the skin underneath the coat.

How rain scald affects your horse

Rain rot can really affect the health of our horses in a bad and uncomfortable way. The bacteria that causes this condition can irritate and cause pain in the affected areas, and no one wants that!

As matted scabs keep popping up on the affected areas in wet conditions, your horse will get increasingly uncomfortable, itchy, and sensitive. Rain scald can also cause hair loss and open sores in severe cases and in horses with poorly developed immune systems. It can also get in the way of the horse’s normal skin functioning.

If there’s a lot of moisture for prolonged periods, it can cause excessive sweating.

Rain scald vs mud fever?

Mud fever is kind of a vague term, to be honest – it can also refer to dermatitis, greasy heels, or cracked heels. It is caused by the same bacteria as rain scald. It’s a non-contagious skin condition that can cause irritate your horse and cause some pain. The difference is that it’s focused on a horse’s lower limbs. Mud fever is mainly caused by bacteria, even secondary bacteria, which come alive in muddy areas.

The bacteria can be hidden in the horse’s skin throughout the winter months when horses spend more time in muddy conditions. Prolonged exposure to dampness can damage the skin’s surface. Infected areas can show signs like matted hair or hair attached to scabs, as well as a sticky secretion.

How To Prevent Rain Scald

Worry not, because you can catch rain scald (or mud fever) and stop it right in its tracks before it even takes hold. Your horse’s health and comfort remain the top priority, so prevention is always better than undergoing treatment. The first – and most important – thing is to keep your horse dry at all times and don’t let them get exposed to wet conditions.

To keep your horse dry in wet weather, it helps if they have access to a dry box or field shelter where they can take cover from the muddy fields and downpours.

When you do wash your horse, use warm water and dry them with a clean towel properly afterwards so that there isn’t any dampness left on their skin.  It’s best to use a waterproof rug so that there’s an extra layer of protection.

Regular grooming is also key, all year round! A well-stocked grooming kit should always be close by to help look after your horse. Use clean brushes, especially on areas like the back and rump, which are mainly affected by rain scald. Inspect your horse’s skin regularly for symptoms, like matted hair or scabs.

Talk to a horse vet if you see anything that seems off! They can do some skin scraping to confirm if your horse has rain scald.

How To Treat Rain Scald

If you haven’t managed to prevent rain scald in your horse, don’t fret. There are tons of ways to still help your horse and work through it with them.

Start by grabbing your grooming equipment and gently taking out any loose hair or scabs from the affected area. Be careful with the scabs, though – you don’t want to annoy your horse further! After this, thoroughly clean the area with mild antiseptic solutions or warm water to wash the skin. Make sure you dry the area super well afterwards.

Watch this great video from Rik at RK stables to see how to treat it

Apply antibiotic creams directly on the affected areas; this will help fight the infection really well. Just follow your vet’s orders though, you don’t want to under or overdo the antibiotic cream! If your horse has a pretty severe case of rain scald, you can use oral antibiotics from your vet to treat the skin infection inside out.

Throughout your treatment plan, the most important thing is to keep your horse’s skin clean and cry, and stay out of wet and muddy conditions.

If rain scald is starting to hit large areas, form many scabs, or persists for long periods, talk to your vet ASAP. Monitor the affected area all the time and check for any changes to see if it’s getting worse. Hit your vet up if you find new or clumped areas of scabs.


Is rain scald contagious?

No, not at all! Rain scald can’t be spread to other horses, or yourself. No need to avoid contact, just treat it as soon as possible.

Where can I find rain scald on my horse’s skin?

Rain scald is an infection of the skin, and will generally appear on the back and rump of your horse. Sometimes it can spread to other areas.

How long does it take for rain scald to heal on my horse?

Healing time changes for different horses; it really depends on how bad the infection is, and if the bacteria has spread. It should take around 2 to 3 weeks to heal completely.

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