• Scratches, Mud Fever or Pastern Deratitis


    Scratches, mud fever, pastern dermatitis on pink pigment

    What do you call it in your part of the country?  It is also called dew poisoning,  grease heel or greasy heel. But it is the same condition  which is caused by a mixture of bacteria and in some cases fungal organisms.

    The eastern US has had an unusually wet summer giving this disease the conditions to thrive on the horses limbs, mostly in the pastern and heel area.  It affects all horses and ponies with non-pigmented skin more severely affected.

    The causes are:

    • Breaking of the skin by sand and grit  allowing for entry of bacteria
    •  Muddy wet paddocks in winter and spring  months
    •  Lush tall grass paddock during wet summer months
    •  Sharing paddock boots, wraps or brushes, which may result in contagious bacteria passing between horses.

    What it looks like:


    The beginning of scratches before it get serious and spreads


    As with any bacterial infection, mud fever can become a very serious condition very quickly. The legs can become swollen and sore and open sores can become quickly infected. Often, such is the level of damage to the skin that these open sores can become very difficult to heal and can result in proud flesh, permanent hair loss and in severe cases the need for skin grafts.

    How to clear up pastern dermatitis:

    1. Use common sense.  With shampoo or antibacterial soap soften scabs so that they can be removed without hurting the horse.  Air in the wound is good for killing the bacteria.

    2. Hose off the scabby area with gentle warm water to remove all of the scabs that will come off rather easily.

    3. Then dry with paper towel which is more sanitary and absorbant than a towel.

    4. Allow the air to help in the drying process and then a good antibiotic can be dressed onto the wounds.

    5. Finish with petroleum jelly or Desitan as a barrier to more moisture entering from the fields.  Better yet put the horse in a dry stall at night and let the pasterns heal.

    6. Stay on top of the condition and keep it manageable.

    The above steps are not veterinary prescribed.  It is the method I am currently using after a great deal of reading on the subject.  My horse who lives out 24/7 with white back feet is very prone to scratches and this year is the worst. It does not require expensive remedies just constant attention until summer passes and his pasture is dry. I almost have him cleared up.

    Karleen Hubley

    Owner of HorseFlyNet® the best solution for screening horse barns and sheds against sun and bugs.  find us on www.horseflynet.com

    copyright 2013