Best remedies for scratches

Okay so I’ve been battling a severe case of scratches with my mare for over a year at this point.

I’ve had 3 vets out this year for this particular issue, one recommended mineral oil daily and the scabs will fall off, didn’t work, another said it wasn’t too bad and just to slather it in bag balm, didn’t work.

At at this point it’s gettig bad, her legs are swelling and she’s going lame. (Not super rare for her anyway because she accident prone, but still concerning!)

Next a different vet sedated her, got rid of the scabs, and gave me cream and anti fungal stuff, chlorohexidine and bute, slowly improved for about 2 months, never fully left and started getting worse again.

For the next few months I try EVERYTHING under the sun, everyone at this point is recommending stuff to me (her massage therapist, farrier, barn owner, fellow boarders), I’ve tried literally hundereds of remedies, from diaper cream, mtg, silver spray, mineral oil, creams specifically for mud fever, essential oils. At one point I tried wrapping her legs, scrubbing scabs off, leaving them alone. I mean I’ve tried everything people.

At at this point I start trying internal remedies, I have her on omega oils, any coat supplement I can find… like you name it we’ve tried it.

She has been inside during muddy conditions since this all started last winter (about a year and a half ago). So she gets turned out if it’s bone dry outside, but otherwise she stays in her clean bedded stall. Of course I take her out, and she exercises in the indoor arena, but at this point she’s basically on stall rest constantly.

So fast forward to this week, still trying to heal her scratches, imagine my reaction to her new found rain rot… I mean this horse doesn’t even go outside or get dirty, how she got rain rot is beyond me. I’ve been spraying her all over with a mix of listerine and baby oil, but I don’t know if it’s working yet, it’s been just a couple days.

She also has started rubbing her tail raw, yup, my problem child now has scratches, rain rot AND is rubbing her beautiful full tail raw. I’m also spraying the listerine and baby oil on her tail. She is dewormed regularly and just got done a week ago, so worms aren’t the issue.

At this point I’m thinking she must have some sort of immune system issue here, so I’m looking into immune boosters. I’ve gathered so far in my research that Rosehips, Spirulina, Kelp and garlic in a powdered form should help, I’m going to look into adding those as well as putting her back on a good quality coat supplement. Any suggestions for a coat supplement or any natural immune boosters?

So guys, let me hear it, what is your BEST remedy for mud fever/ scratches/ rain rot/ tail itch. I just want my poor mare to be better!! It can be internal or external, wrapping or not, I’m willing to try anything! I go to the barn once a day (it’s 30 minutes from my house and I work full time), but the barn staff is AMAZING, so if it’s something decently easy they can help out.

Last but not least, she is seeing a different vet next week for vaccines, and I’m going to get them to look at her legs again, and hopefully finally give me some antibiotics or something? She’s also seeing her regular vet again (when I can get ahold of him, he’s crazy busy this time of year!) for her yearly teeth floating, so if she’s not cleared up by then I’ll be talking to him about it as well. Trust me I’ve been working with vets, they are also shocked that it’s not gone yet!

I had a horrible case that lasted over 8 months and required multiple courses of antibiotics (including IV) and steroids.

Honey was the the ultimate cure. Yup, the good raw stuff from the farmers market. I scrubbed the leg with an betadine wash, then gooped on plenty of honey (about 1/3 cup to coat it). Re apply daily, within about 4 days the scabs started falling off and the raw patches healed. I still keep an eye on it and apply anytime I think there may be mud.

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I’m sorry; that sounds miserable for both you and your mare.

I can’t speak to the scratches, but my local tack shop recommended Coat Defense for my mare’s very itchy tail, which hasn’t responded to anything else (MTG, Equiderma, Calm Coat, Listerine, etc). I have both of the Coat Defense products, but I primarily use the powder. While it hasn’t 100% resolved her tail rubbing, it has significantly decreased in frequency and duration, and it’s keeping her skin pink and healthy-looking. We powder her well once a day. Adding flax to her diet may have helped as well, as does keeping adjacent potentially itchy-bits clean.

My tack shop owner (if you’re in Northern Virginia, it’s Another Turn Tack in Purcellville) also recommends Coat Defense for rain rot and scratches. The website is here -

Best of luck!

First, if her legs are swelling to the point of lameness, another vet call is in order, so I’m glad to hear that’s happening next week. She possibly has developed cellulitis or lymphangitis secondary to the scratches; if so, the vet will likely prescribe antibiotics.

When you’re dealing with that type of persistent scratches, you have to look beyond just treating the scratches alone. I would agree with your suspicion that the scratches are secondary to another issue, especially given the other symptoms she is experiencing. The first place I start is diet: high sugar/starch diets, low forage diets, or diets unbalanced/lacking in key nutrients like Cu/Zn, essential fatty acids, vitamin A, E, etc. can result in manifestation of skin conditions. Other culprits can include photo-sensitivity (especially if the diet is high in phytoestrogens from soy, alfalfa, or clover) or an allergy.

As far as topicals go, be careful you’re not irritating the area and making it worse. Sometimes people get too aggressive with treatment and are either scrubbing healing tissue to the point of irritation or using too harsh of concoctions for damaged skin. While it sounds like you’ve already tried this, I have really good luck with washing the area with a mild antiseptic (betadine scrub or chlorohexidine scrub) and applying a lanolin-based ointment. For whatever reason, this stuff has worked better than Bag Balm. I only ended up purchasing it because TSC was out of Bag Balm that particular day.


Sulphur mixed in petroleum jelly is good for scratches but yours might need antibiotics as it sounds a lot worse than I have dealt with.

Rain rot is not caused from rain. It is caused from being hot and wet. Most people use a seat scraper incorrectly and that can cause it. If you have a sweat scraper with rubber on one side. You only use the rubber on the legs and bony bits . You use the plastic or metal on the meaty parts and you are removing the sweat not the water. So put some effort into it.

It is better to dry the horse before rugging. Which is one of the reasons that horses are clipped in Winter. Make sure the horse is not over rugged and sweating underneath it.

It is contagious so use separate track and grooming equipment. A medical shampoo will help. If it is under a mane, plait the mane on the other side of the neck. Dry is your friend.

You have to be proactive. A dab of furacin or
ointment at any sign of dampness. Also, I’ve found diet to make a big difference. I had a horse with scratches tendencies and when I took him off grain (forage and mineral balance) his scratches all but disappeared. I think now some horses must be sensitive to the sugar or something in sweet feed and even pellets.

I had one horse that would get rain rot in the winter when it rained. It had everything to do with having longer hair and nothing to do with the temperature.

Add copper and zinc to her diet. Poly copper and poly zinc from either uckele or horse tech. Half serving of each.


Diet, diet, diet!

Start with looking to add copper, zinc, and natural Vitamin E (up to 8,000IU per day). If you list what she’s eating currently, that might give us some clues where she could be deficient.

I’v dealt with chronic scratches, to the point where we had snow on the ground, zero mud, and a patch of scratches that would not clear up in the middle of the winter. Since I added a high dose of Vitamin E, we’ve not had a major chronic scratches issue.

In addition to diet, I find treating topically with Furacin that has injectable dexamethasone mixed in to work the best. Microwave the Furacin for a few seconds so it’s mostly liquid, squirt most of a bottle of dex, replace cap and shake. Put jar in refrigerator to return to solid state. Apply every other day. I also use my vet’s in-house scratches cream that they mix up, and sliver sulfadiazine has worked ok before. I’ve also had scratches with a fungal component and applying athlete’s foot spray helped clear that up.

I don’t clip the legs as that seems to make it worse, nor do I aggressively pick the scabs or shampoo regularly.

You may need to get skin scraping of each affected leg/area and have the vet see what organisms are causing the issue. My vet said there can be different organisms on each leg causing the scratches.

You really should have a skin biopsy and cultures for fungus/bacteria done to know what you’re dealing with as it can be a whole host of things.

See Page 7 for more info:

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Following as I am having the same issue. And I have tried adding copper/zinc and vitamin e to diet. And he was just on a ton of antibiotics (including regional perfusions to affected leg for a nail in foot) which did not touch the scratches. The scabs get smaller but never entirely go away. Just ordered a tub of Equiderma for a try. Thinking of going to dex after that. :sigh:

Sometimes horses on antibiotics actually develop scratches, or have them worsen, because the antibiotics can stress and compromise the immune system. Plus, the antibiotics used to treat/prevent infection from a nail in the foot address different types of bacteria than would be present as a result of a superficial skin infection.

But if the horse is developing a systemic infection secondary to the scratches, the horse is going to need antibiotics.

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You should do skin scrapings and have them cultured to see exactly what you are dealing with. You should call the vet and talk to them ahead of the visit because you might have to leave the scratches untreated for a few days so that the medications don’t mess up the test. It sound like you are going at it blind at this point and scratches is a broad term that can be fungal, bacterial, yeast infections etc.

As far as treatment options I have had great success with equiderma skin lotion, not the equiderma scratches remedy, and also with a poultice made from pascolite clay and colloidal silver. The clay has to be pascolite, it does really good things for the skin and is great at drawing out infection.

Chlorhexidine scrub has always worked for me, for every kind of skin malady. Its cheap too, about $24 for a gallon that lasts me a year or two with multiple horses. For scratches, I shampoo with chlorhex and DO NOT pick the scabs. I scrub with my fingertips only, no nails. I use the chlorhex scrub every day until the scabs are gone, and with really prone horses I proactively shampoo their legs every other day even if they look good. Use it on rainrot, too, the same way. And there’s nothing better to wash cuts and scrapes with, either…doesn’t sting or stain like betadine.

I’ve even had success with this on field-kept horses, living out in dewy pastures with occasional mud. I bring a syringe of chlorhexidine scrub with me at feed time, once or twice a day I rub it on the scabs (I like to use an old “Tomorrow” med syringe with the skinny tip to get in the cracks of the scabs without picking). I don’t even rinse it off (no hose in the back 40) but morning dew does that. It took 2 weeks to clear up the worst mare, but that was a bad case and she was never stalled or wrapped.


Yes longer hair, so it gets undereath and heats up. Hot and wet, I was not talking about the temperature of the day. The temperature of the water or sweat sitting on them. It can happen under long manes of horses. So lack of air can also contribute. As I said dry is your friend.

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My BO has a QH gelding that is very prone to scratches. His vet recommends keeping him inside overnight when they are bad, turning him out only when the sun has dried the dew from the grass - it is worse at certain times of the year. She also recommends cleaning them with with an anti-fungal, antibiotic solution, I can find out what it is if you’d like. I think this horse has been on antibiotics in the past when the scratches were bad.

His vet thinks his horse is particularly prone to scratches (lives out with 3 other horses, they don’t get it) and she has been very involved with all of their horse’s diets (ration balancer plus a grain plus a hoof supplement for this horse).

Having heard “the saga”, I agree with SuzieQNutter…dry is your friend!

EventerAJ has a good post!

Do you dilute the chlorohexidine out of the gallon jug or just use it as it comes? Do you mix it with soap to make a scrub?

I buy the chlorhexidine scrub-- the same stuff vets use to clean wounds or joints before injections. It lathers on its own, no diluting necessary. It is a different product than the chlorhex solution, but obviously the same active ingredient.

Oh dear, this is not a good situation at all!

My solution for scratches comes from the drug store: desitin, athletes foot cream, polysporin, cortisone cream , and zinc! Do a betadine scrub first (you can water down the betadine if you like) and dry the area very well. Mix a glob of each of the above together, and apply a coat. Do this process daily if you can, each day when you do the scrub, clean away any of the scabs that come off, dry and repeat with the cream.

It does sound like there is more going on there than just scratches - but if you can get the immune system fixed up, and then heal the scratches that would probably be best!

Good luck, I hope this helps!

Have any vets put her on Baytril + SMZ + Naquasone?
My topical remedy is : Triancimalone cream [steroid]+ Zinc[moisture barrier] +SMZ pills made into paste [antibiotic] + miconazole [antifungal]. Slather it on. try to just dab off if dirty and reslather. if it’s going to work it works in days not weeks.

i also always wash legs exclusively with Equifit Silver wash daily strength. It’s pricey, and I have 5 show horses, but I swear it cuts down on my scratches and cellulitis.

Of course, keeping your horse out of the dew is important to stop the wet dry cycle. If this is feasible.