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Treatment for Equine Scratches

If your horse has scabs on his pasterns/heels, he may have scratches. Read on for how to prevent and treat this potentially crippling condition.

Be alert for any signs of scratches on your horse, and take immediate steps to stop it from progressing. Watch for small scabs and skin cracks just above the heels. Most horses have heavy hair in the area, making close examination difficult. But once you see signs of equine scratches, avoid clipping the hair, which can irritate and worsen the condition.

Pay particular attention to your mare's heels if you'll be going to a region where the environmental factors mentioned earlier are favorable to scratches.

I think I've been asked a million times how to treat equine scratches, and I've heard many different answers. Commonly, you'll hear: "Clean the area well, and apply (a topical substance). This topical substance can be any one of dozens of wonder cures that have worked for at least someone. Truthfully, there's no simple, magic cure, but the generally idea is sound.

If you see any signs of scratches on your mare, take the following steps.

Step 1: Clean the area. Use an antiseptic cleanser. I like Phisoderm with hexachlorophene, available over the counter. Or, you can use a mild iodine scrub available from your veterinarian.

Step 2. Pat dry. Use a clean towel to dry the area, but pat, don't rub; rubs can cause further irritation.

Step 3: Apply a topical solution. Two recommended topical treatments are Desitin, a common diaper-rash medication available in drugstores, and Furacin, an antibiotic ointment you can get from your veterinarian. Note: Rotating topical medications will increase the chances of success, because several different pathogens are probably involved.

Step 4: Repeat. Keep the area clean and medicated.

I'd like to thank all of you who've written in for your interest and participation. You've come up with good questions, and this one from Ava in Oregon is no exception. Keep your questions coming, start getting that rig ready, and get out on the trail.

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