Horse Scratches and Rain Rot can be
Prevented and Treated Naturally with Essential Oils

Horse scratches is a bacterial horse skin infection that affects the skin area at the back of the pastern and heel. It is caused by trauma to the skin created by wet or muddy footing. Horses with long fetlock hair are most susceptible; but any horse can get it!

Most cases are caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. Once the horses skin has been bitten, cut or irritated, it sets up a situation for the bacteria (and other fungi) to thrive. Moisture rich environments love bacteria and fungi as well.

The scabs and skin cracks of horse scratches can be extremely painful and some horses can even go lame. So please don't leave it untreated and continue to keep an eye out for all of your horse's skin problems!

It has many names for the same or a variation of the same condition! And sometimes this gets mixed up with other horse skin conditions including horse skin fungus so check out that section as well.

Here are all the names I found that have been given to this horse skin condition known as horse scratches:

  • Scratches
  • Grease Heel
  • Greasy Heel
  • Pastern Dermatitis
  • Foot Rot
  • Cracked Heels
  • Dew Poisoning
  • Mud Foot or Foot Rot

What Essential Oils do we use for Horse Scratches?

Essential oils that are therapeutic grade and high in phenols are excellent for any kind of bacterial infection, skin or otherwise. And can be used to treat scratches. They will help eliminate the bacterial infection and promote healing as well.

The best oils to use for this condition are:

I personally like the blends of Melrose and Purification because they are professionally made for specific conditions and usually several oils may be need to the job. Plus some of the oils that are excellent antibacterials may be a little harsh (clove, or rosemary) ; and a combination of oil avoids that problem.

For instance, Purification cleans and disinfects and has antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal properties. It kills anaerobic bacteria and repels insects. And it has many of the single oils recommended above including Melaleuca, lemongrass and myrtle.

I also use Purification to deter flies and fleas. Melrose is similar and I often use a combination of both to combat all skin conditions

For dilutions use the information on this website or check the distributor's recommendation on the label. Also for carrier or base oils (for dilution), check the horse liniment section on what you can use.

How do we treat Horse Scratches?

Here are some tips for treating scratches:

  • Make sure you clip as much of the hair away as possible. Sorry, all the horses feathers have to go!

  • Thoroughly clean and remove as much of the scabs and dirt as possible by washing with Animal Scents Shampoo and warm water. Or use Epsom salts with Purification Let the shampoo or purification mixture sit for 5 or 10 minutes.

  • Once the areas are clean apply essential oils. If you have Animal Scents Ointment or Rose Ointment you may place it over the top to seal in the oils. If the irritation is severe you may want to cover with a bandage until the areas start drying out and healing.

  • I do this treatment at least 2x per day when first starting off and up to 3x per day for very severe cases.

  • Keep your horse in clean and dry surroundings until the areas heal. This is so important!

  • And keep applying the essential oils daily until the lesions are completely healed.

  • If you do not see improvement or if the conditions get worst, always consult your veterinarian.

  • Do not use abrasive shampoos or slaves containing chemicals or synthetics. It will worsen the condition.

What do I do for Horse Scratches Prevention?

The best thing you can do is wash your horse with Animal Scents Shampoo at least once per week. And make sure that your horse's legs and pasterns are dry before you put them away!

What is Rain Scald or Rain Rot?

Horse Scratches is often confused with Rain Rot but they are different. This condition is caused by dermatophilus congelensis which is a bacterial organism belonging in the class actinomycetes. And the organism is activated by moisture!

Horses that are exposed to wet soggy pastures usually see outbreaks to this organism. But those of us that live in tropical regions are definitely more affected by this condition than those who live in dryer environments.

This bacteria acts like a fungus and bacterial and therefore responds well to essential oils that are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.

The best oils to use for this condition are:

Once again I like to use Melrose and Purification in combination because they contain many of the single oils that work for this condition and horse scratches as well.

For dilutions use the information on this website or check the distributor's recommendation on the label. Also for carrier or base oils (for dilution), check the horse liniment section on what you can use.

What is Pyoderma?

Another bacterial skin conditions that is similar to horse scratches is Pyoderma or Fooiculitis. This condition usually develops when sweating creates a shift in the pH of the horse's skin that favors bacterial growth. It is created by the organism Staphylococcus. This is also called Summer Rash.

If your horse has small pimples especially in the area of the tack, then your horse has Summer Rash. Keep your horses tack clean, wash well after workouts and you shouldn't see this condition return.

Once again essential oils to the rescue! Use the same treatment and oils as detailed above.


Return from Horse Scratches to Oils for Horses


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