What is rain scald?

Equine vet, Janina Kutscha, explains exactly what rain scald is and how you can prevent it. 

A field shelter can help to keep your horse dry and out of the rain

A field shelter can help to keep your horse dry and out of the rain

What is rain scald?

Rain scald is one of the most common skin conditions in horses and is often seen after prolonged periods of rain. It’s caused by the organism Dermatophilus congolensis, which is a bacterium that behaves both like bacteria and fungi.

It causes crusty scabs and ‘paint-brush’ hair tufts that can easily be pulled off, leaving hairless, pink and raw spots that can merge into larger areas. It’s mostly seen on the top of the head, neck and back and isn’t usually itchy to the horse. It’s not a serious disease, but may lead to more severe secondary skin infections if not treated. 

How do I treat it? 

The condition may settle down by itself when the horse is removed from the wet weather conditions, with the lesions disappearing and new hair beginning to regrow after about 10 days. However, removing the scabs gently, treating the affected areas with an antiseptic wash and disinfecting any in contact equipment may speed up the healing process.

It’s advisable to not ride your horse if there are any lesions in the saddle area, as it may worsen the condition and be painful to your horse.

How do I prevent rain scald?

The best prevention is to protect your horse from rain. This can be by providing shelter or by putting on a light breathable blanket when he’s turned out (heavy rugs may trap moisture and worsen the condition).

It’s also important to keep any kit and tack that comes into contact with your horse clean and avoid sharing equipment with other horses.

If there’s no improvement, or even worsening of the rain scald despite all preventative measures, it may be worth checking your horse for any underlying conditions that may weaken his immune system, such as PPID (Cushing’s disease).