Rain rot is a commonly used phrase to describe a flaky, scabby skin infection in horses. We sometimes call it a fungus, but it’s really a bacterial infection from the Dermatophilus Congolensis bacteria. We call it rain rot because it typically occurs on horses in areas that would be rained on – the face, the neck, the back.
The infection begins through an existing cut or break in the skin. Then you will start to see tiny scabs that are usually hot painful and usually not itchy. If removed, they also take the hair with it. Areas with rain rot can become painful, especially if the infections goes into the deeper layers of the skin or tack is placed on affected skin.
The area might also become a little itchy, in which case your horse will likely find a way to get some relief, and in the meantime spreading the infection through the act of scratching. Many horses get rain rot in the winter, and just as many get rain rot in the summer. The offending bacteria loves a humid environment – which in the summer is the weather, or frequent bathing. In winter, horses that sweat in their fuzzy coats create the perfect situation for rain rot, as does the horse in a blanket.
You can do wonders to prevent rain rot, including grooming and inspecting your horse’s skin daily. Any areas should be inspected by your Veterinarian for a treatment plan, which may range from a topical antibiotic to oral or injected antibiotics. You should also avoid using your horse’s grooming tools on other horses, skip sharing saddle pads and tack, and make sure you horse’s blankets, grooming tools and everything that touches his skin is clean.
Catch it early and it’s no big deal – wait too long and your horse can get secondary infections that are much harder (and more expensive!) to treat. Severe cases can also weaken your horse’s immune system, leaving him vulnerable to a wide range of viruses and infections.
A daily grooming session is your best chance at keeping rain rot at bay!