Rain scald is a non-contagious (which means it doesn’t spread from one horse to another or to people) skin condition that can be caused by the same bacteria as mud fever. However, scabs form in places along the horse’s neck, back and hind quarters rather than the lower legs. The condition is often found in horses exposed to consistent wet weather. The scabs have tufts of hair attached to them that stand up and look like paint brushes.
Speak to your vet for advice if you think your horse has rain scald. It is important to confirm the signs aren’t mistaken for other skin conditions, such as ringworm which is a highly contagious fungal infection. Your vet may take a sample of the scab or do a skin scrapping to help diagnose the condition under a microscope.
Treatment of rain scald is the same as mud fever by cleansing the affected area with an antibacterial solution such as dilute Hibiscrub (Chlorhexidine) and warm water to help gradually remove the softened scabs. The area should then be rinsed with warm water and dried thoroughly, and the process repeated as appropriate. Be aware that removing the scabs can be painful to the horse so sedation maybe required. Severe rain scald may require repeat treatments and cream applied to the skin. Your vet will be able to determine the course of action and treatment plan.
Prevention can be difficult as the UK often challenges us with difficult weather! Shelter in the field is ideal, such as manmade structures or natural trees and hedges to help reduce the risk of constant wetting of the skin. Rugging your horse can also provide protection from the wet weather.
If possible, bring your horse in during part of the day to allow the skin to dry and protect from prolonged wetting of the horse’s coat. Monitor your horse for signs of rain scald so you can contact your vet if you’re concerned at the earliest possible possibility.
Horses with a reduced immune function (immunosuppression), such as those with Cushing’s disease, can make rain scald difficult to treat.