4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses

4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses
“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.” ~Langston Hughes *pictured: '4Shoes Bookends'

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Gatdang Scratches

Today's post is a rerun from 4/22/15 but one worth repeating, especially just
ahead of spring, which is prime time for scratches to appear.  
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Also called Dew PoisoningMud Fever, or Greasy Heel**,  this painful problem occurs more commonly in the spring & fall months & does seem to be more prevalent in horses with white socks & pink skin than in those with dark legs. Scratches initially appear as patches of scurf beneath hair that may look thinned or matted or greasy. Close inspection will reveal itchy, irritated, red, cracked skin that may be oozing thick ‘greasy’ fluid. These sores or lesions will become crusty or scabby as the ooze dries up & will then break open & crack further with flexing of the foot causing a lot of pain & resulting in lameness if left unchecked.
Though it is commonly thought to be caused by wet & muddy pasture or turnout conditions or by poorly cleaned, damp stalls, in fact, there are a number of other possible causative factors for scratches. Other causes might be a combination of bacterias, or of fungus, contact dermatitis (such as  sensitivity to certain plants in pastures or turnouts or from improperly fitted or cleaned & dried boots), genetics, nutrition, bedding, allergies, mange/mites*, or photosensitivity (sunburn). *A skin scraping will quickly confirm or rule out mites/mange as a cause, but oftentimes the exact cause or causes will remain unclear.
Photo credit: Vetnext.com
Scratches can appear to present suddenly as a tiny little spot, but left unchecked the condition will rapidly worsen & can spread even to the coronet band & further up & around the lower leg. Chronic, improperly treated, or untreated scratches may become seriously infected & possibly develop into Cellulitis (inflammation of the deeper layers of skin resulting in heat & swelling in the legs & requiring extensive treatment, aka 'stocking up'), Chronic Progressive Lymph Edema (CPL), or thick scarring called Granulomas. Prompt & regular treatment of scratches from the start should alleviate the symptoms of this condition, but it will not resolve itself unless the trigger can be identified & removed (eg. such as in cases where sunburn is the causative factor & the horse is fine in winter).
Because incidents of scratches present all over the world, from deserts to tropical regions & everywhere in between, there are a number of treatments on the market (such as Panalog or Gentomicin to name just a couple), so you have options with which to experiment should your horse ever present with this problem. 
I've only ever had to deal with 2 horses (knock wood) who regularly presented with scratches - a chestnut pacer on my grooming string years ago, & Mr Shoes' personal mount, a black 1/2 Morgan mare. The chestnut mare was working on a limestone track in a semi-tropical region & required daily treatment year-round to control her problem. Our black mare gets scratches only in the summertime & only on her rear pasterns (which have white socks & pink skin).
If your horse has a lot of thick hair or feathering, you may wish to trim it back so that you can more easily apply treatment & monitor the progress. For the successful treatment of scratches I rely on an old horseman's remedy, learned years ago in the backstretch, that is made of inexpensive ingredients readily available at your local Whateveryouwant-mart or pharmacy.
Horseman's Heel Scratches Remedy
  1.  4 oz diaper rash ointment (Zinc Oxide 40%)
  2.  2 oz triple antibiotic ointment (no name brand)
  3.  2 oz cortisone ointment (no name brand)
Mix all 3 ointments together until very well blended, store in sealed plastic container (avoid storing in direct sunlight or extreme heat). Gently massage mixture into the skin of affected area daily; do not pick at the scabs, they will soften & slough off with continued treatment.
If you are coming late to the party & the sores are oozing, open, or if there are a lot of scabs, then apply a more liberal amount twice daily until you have the situation under control.
Even if the area clears up completely, you should be closely inspecting & touching the area daily to ensure that the scratches do not return. As with any problem, early detection & treatment is key to the comfort & health of your horse!

**Horses with white faces or muzzles, can also develop Scratches (Facial Dermatitis) with sore, scabby, cracked areas on the nose & around the mouth.  

Disclaimer: I am not a vet. This anecdotal post is based on my own research & experience as a formerly professional Groom & an always & forever Owner. Nothing written herein should be construed as a substitute for the advice of a veterinarian. Rule of thumb ~ If you are unsure or uneasy, call your vet. Your horse will thank you for it.
~Joining up with AIM link party today~
Cool Beans ~ Many Thanks!

14 comments:

  1. I despise scratches. Luckily we've only had one horse who had it years ago. We did a similar treatment if I remember correctly. They had a good article on it in Equus last month.

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    1. I don't get that magazine, but I guess that validates the relevancy of my post today.
      As a Groom in the backstretch we had an alternate therapy made by a vet - it was a little like yellow mustard, you had to wear gloves or it would stain your hands. It was also caustic, which to me seemed counter-productive & I refused to do that to a horse on my string. This simple remedy kept that little ginger mare comfortable and her heels clear, but because it was chronic for her, I applied it twice every day religiously. She'd suffered for a while before she came to me; I was so pleased that I could get her feeling so much better with this remedy; she felt so good that she made some good money while we had her.

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  2. I've been very fortunate so far- Irish has only had scratches once.

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    1. Mr Shoes' mare still gets it in the summer on those white hooves, but I watch for the first sign & treat it right away. I wish she didn't get it at all, but thankfully it's pretty easily manageable if you're on top of things.

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  3. I only had one horse that got it once thankfully. But I do know a few friends who's horses got it every year....not fun

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    1. It presents & then seems to blossom; you really have to watch for it & be on top of treatment for horses who are prone to them. Since I know Mr Shoes' mare is prone to them, I watch her like a HAWK does a rabbit! This remedy has never failed me & keeps her heels clean but, man, if I weren't watching it could be a real problem for her. I'm always grateful to the 80+ year old Horseman who gave it to me; in his memory, I share it with other horsefolk as often as I can do.

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  4. Oh that looks painful. Good thing you know how to treat it. Thank you Mrs Shoes for sharing this post at the #WednesdayAIM #LinkUp #BlogParty. I shared it on social media.

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    1. Left untreated, or if the person picks at the scabs rather than letting the ointment do the job, scratches can be VERY painful.

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  5. Ouch. I've never seen it before, but I'll be on the lookout. We live in a somewhat dry area, so maybe that is why.

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    1. Scratches can present even in desert conditions, & there are actually quite a few causative factors that aren't weather related. All you need do is be familiar with what it looks like, & to know your horses. Knowing for a fact that you are an excellent horse keeper, if you ever do run across a case, you'll know how to treat it! :-)

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  6. Diaper rash ointment is the only thing I've ever found to treat it well. I've heard this is because it's actually just like diaper rash, and the bacterial and fungal infections are secondary to the initial irritation. I keep a huge tub of Boudreaux's Butt Paste in the feed room to slather on at the first sign of it, and haven't had any problems.

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    1. You see that rash cream is a large part of this remedy; the added antibiotic is particularly useful for scratches that are already cracking open & the cortisone helps speed healing.
      Thanks for stopping by Shannon.

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  7. I'm so glad there is something to help with that. To think they can become lame is very sad. Sounds like it's not so easy to own a horse. I love them though.

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    1. No, horses are not easy, but I sure wouldn't ever give them up. Even after old age or poor health might force me to give up riding (hard to fathom!) I hope that I will be able to look out my windows & see horses until the day I die.

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