Getting a Handle on Scratches

Last Updated on February 19, 2022 by Allison Price

Equine pastern Dermatitis (EPD) is a skin reaction that can cause scrubbing. It is not a disease. Owners and veterinarians must address the primary, predisposing, and perpetuating causes of a case. They should also recognize that treating the perpetuating and predisposing factors is just as important as the primary cause.

Clinical Signs & Pathogenesis

Any breed can get scrubbings, but draft horses are more susceptible due to their long pastern hairs (feathers). Most commonly, it affects the rear of the hind pasterns. The lesions can spread to other parts of the body, including the front pastern and fetlock. The initial signs may include redness, swelling, and swelling. However, the symptoms can quickly progress to oozing and hair matting. Vasculitis, which is inflammation of the blood vessels wall, can cause skin ulcers. Secondary bacterial infections are a common problem that can lead to more severe complications. Chronic cases can cause skin to thicken or fissure from constant movement and flexion. These lesions can be painful.

Getting a Handle on Scratches


A veterinarian should take a detailed history of the horse, including the age of the horse, the month at which it began, the severity of the scratch, and the response to previous treatment. Because allergens can touch the skin, wet bedding or chemically treated bedding as well as muddy pastures or insects should be inspected by the veterinarian. It could indicate an infectious or zoonotic condition like dermatophyte fungal disease. Parasites are another diagnostic rule. Chorioptic mange, a common cause for pastern dermatitis among draft horses, is another. Pastern folluculitis, a pus-forming skin infection, is more common. The culprits are Staphylococcus Aureus or Dermatophilus Congolensis. White horses can be affected by photosensitization in contact and systemic forms (e.g., pastern laukocytoclastic vasculitis or PLV) when exposed to UV light.


Once your vet has identified the cause, you can start to seek appropriate treatment. These are some environmental changes that you can make to help.

1. Avoid putting horses in pastures that are muddy, wet, or sandy as this can make the condition worse.

2. In wet weather, keep horses in dry, clean stalls.

3. Don’t let horses go until the morning dew has dried.

4. You should not use scented bedding if you suspect that you have contact allergic dermatitis.

5. To reduce moisture retention, clip heavy feathers on the pasterns.

6. Avoid UV light exposure if you suspect that your horse may have PLV.

7. Use an antiseptic shampoo to immediately clean the skin after you have finished exercising.

Topical antibacterials as well as systemic therapies are available for clinical treatment. Secondary infections caused by Staphylococcus species can complicate diagnosis. Antibacterial shampoos are available with ethyl lautate, accelerated hydroperoxide or 2% benzoyl/oxide. These shampoos can be used once to twice daily for 7-10 days. Lather, rinse, and dry the area well. Reduce the frequency to 2 to 3 times per week. Apply astringent solutions such as aluminum acetate or lime sulfur to any lesions that produce exudate.

For treating localized bacterial infections, you can use ointments like silver sulfadiazine or 2% mupirocin. Owners can use lime sulfur dips to treat mites and dermatophytes. Fungal infections can be treated with equine-approved enilconazole with or without miconazole.

Hydrocortisone Aceponate and 0.015% Triamcinolone can both be used with systemic immunomodulators in combination to treat PLV. Veterinarians have reported success in applying topical mometasone, betamethasone and 0.05% aclometasone creams to lesions. Prednisolone and dexamethasone may be required for immunosuppressive treatment in horses with immuno-mediated conditions.

Antiparasitic treatments for Chorioptes include topical eprinomectin solutions, ivermectin and selenuim sulfur shampoo with lime sulfur.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!