Chronic Scratches - ideas and suggestions welcome!

Funny, we just got back the Cushings test and that was negative. We also just started EqStim which is supposed to offer immune support.

Do you know how they’d test for photosensitivity? For other reasons he just had to spend a month outside in a large paddock, most of that with no shade and the whole time with bare legs and the scratches didn’t get better but didn’t get (materially) worse. As soon as he came back into his stall/paddock combo (so shade available) and wearing his fly boots to keep the sun off, he had a flare up of swollen leg. The leg that swells up half the time isn’t one of the legs that has scratches which was the case this time too - his brown leg.

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There is a spray medication for superficial pyoderma in dogs that contains betamethasone and gentamicin which might be worth trying to get it under control.
The reason I like it is because it doesn’t leave a layer of goo that’s going to pick up dirt and debris.

I would try the eqstim. I’ve heard other people having great luck

I know you are using triple antibiotic ointment but have you tried melting smz pills Into a paste? When i have stubborn scratches that usually does the trick

And I try not to wash too much. Clean legs w a towel and vinegar and reapply. Maybe wash 2x per week. That’s not always possible.

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Mine too …

Have you run allergy tests? My chronic scratches guy was allergic to Timothy. They never healed because that’s all I fed. Once I switched to orchard, they went away completely.

I have not done allergy tests. I will be speaking to the vet today so I will bring that up as well as some of these other suggestions we haven’t already tried. Thank you

Chiming in with my chronic scratches boy. He basically has scratches from his coronet band to mid fetlock all the way around in both hind feet. He doesn’t have any white on his legs.

With aggressive treatment I can get the scratches to recede a fair bit but not clear up completely.

We’ve been through more topical treatments than I care to type out and a 30 day course of SMZ tabs.

Nutritionally, he gets a Zn/Cu supp 960/320 mg, 30 g biotin and 2 oz OE3 oil on top of his 7 lbs TCS Gold. I gave him 8000 IUs of Vit E (Santa Cruz) daily for about 6 months and didn’t notice a change so have dropped it. I’ve pulled the vast majority of his legumes for the past 6 weeks or so, no change. I’d have to switch feeds to pull all legumes.

Pastured on good grass at least 8 hrs daily year round. For the past 6 months or so I’ve kept him in dry lot overnight and turned out to grass after dew dried. I don’t have any mud to speak of here (FL); soil is quite sandy. Property slopes well for drainage too. So I doubt environmental moisture is a big player.

I tried putting Shoo Fly Leggings on him. Horse lost his mind running backwards and spinning. I think they might have hurt him to wear. He’s pretty sensitive about things touching the affected areas.

Vet is coming tomorrow to do blood work and a scraping / culture. Hopefully we’ll get something going here bc I’m very tired of doctoring on this horse’s legs. Horse is very tired of it too.


I have exactly the same problem and been through the same treatments except in PA. We have had a very wet spring but he has spent the bulk of his time in his stall, which creates a whole other set of issues. I spoke to the vet this morning and she said he may need a different antibiotic (no success with SMZ) but will be checking him in person later this week. Very frustrating.

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Very frustrating!

Good luck!

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You too. Keep me posted if you have any success with anything

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I will come back with results from vet work! Hope to hear updates on your case too!

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I’m another one who kinda thinks this could be a photosensitivity reaction to alfalfa. I’ve had many horses throughout my life with white stockings and pink skin on their legs, and I guess I’ve dealt with some garden variety scratches. But then I bought a flashy Paint filly who had a bout of photosensitivity and OMG, misery for both of us!

My vet diagnosed it after exam and bloodwork, and after I had driven myself crazy thinking it was The World’s Worst, Most Infectious Case of Mega Scratches.


I have seen this reaction. My friend’s gelding had this. He would start getting his sores about July and she would battle it with the usual means (washing, scratches goo and wrapping, oral antibiotics) until about December (we are higher latitude with less direct sunlight in winter). He would be fine until the sun got most direct (June, July) then it started all over again. She fought this cycle for 2 solid years and it started again the 3rd year. Because he was so sore and so swollen, she took him to the vet yet again and one of the vets suggested photosensitivity. What cleared his up in addition to losing the alfalfa was dexamethasone in DMSO gel. I am not sure the OTC hydrocortisone is potent enough.

I had a chestnut mare with some white socks that started to get the same looking lesions on a white leg. I got her off a grass alfalfa mix onto grass only and used the magic dex/DMSO gel on the lesions for about a week and it went away and never returned. Unfortunately, it was a long time ago and I don’t remember how much dex was added to the DMSO.

Once the reaction starts, protecting from the sun doesn’t necessarily stop the damage.


Does the photosensitivity only affect white legs?

Not necessarily, though unpigmented skin is typically more severly affected.
I had a mare with white stockings who responded well to sunscreen on the pink skin, though.


Thank you. My horse does not have any white on legs, but if blood work and scraping/culture don’t turn up a remedy then I may try pulling all legumes from his diet. Not sure what I would feed him but I’ll find something if need be.

This reminds me of a horse my friend was leasing: an older Paint gelding (white legs/pink skin underneath) that had been diagnosed with a photosensitivity reaction to clover in the past. She knew not to let him graze in the pasture because we do get some types of clover in the early spring. Things went well for all of winter, but once we got to March he begin to break out in sores. His legs swelled, often up to his knees and hocks. OTC anything was worthless. At one point the vet was giving him IV shots of Dex and then daily prednisone pills. Switching to straight Bermuda helped some, but ultimately my friend sent the horse back because despite the $$$ in vet bills. she couldn’t find a way to make the horse comfortable without possibly doing him even more harm.

Wondering about photosensitivity since my gelding has been on alfalfa almost his whole life (14) but only started getting scratches about 2 years ago. He has been worse over this past winter (less sunlight) and most recently is having a flare-up during stall confinement due to wet weather. Any thoughts? Started Dex/DMSO today. Do you use anything like desitin or furacin over it or let it dry out? Thank you

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Vet came today and took bits of scabs and hair to send off. A sensitivity test (to see if abx resistance and ID if so pending I understand correctly) and possibly may try to send off for a fungal diag if possible. She muttered something about a test for dogs… @Ghazzu any idea what she might have been referring too?

Vet had some free PPID tests. A promo of some sort I guess. But at any rate I’ll be curious to see the results. Also pulled blood for E/Se testing. Vet said she was more likely to test those in neuro cases but agreed that since I’ve tried so many remedies with no success that testing for E/Se wasn’t a bad idea.

She, vet, was pretty shocked I’d done two rounds of this clinic’s preferred topical without success. Particularly since the second round was done in conjunction with SMZs. She says it’s very successful usually. It’s limed sulphur. A dip for small animals, diluted, sprayed on. In case any of my fellow scratches warriors want to give it a whirl.

She didn’t mention dex, but she said their back up cream is a mix of desitin/furazone/genetian violet (spelling and I think that’s what she said. Horse was trying to chew my ear at that moment). I think she’s talking about that purple stuff in old thrush remedies? I’ll get her to repeat that when I speak with her next.

For now, I’m just waiting on test results and buying up all the Desitin in my county.


I have a chestnut gelding who i bought with chronic hind leg scratches on his white stockings. I tested so many products and then eventually made my own. This is the combination and his scratches are gone (he has an occassional flare-up when its super wet outside) but nothing that’s concerning.

  1. 16 oz jar diaper rash ointment (40% zinc oxide (I use generic, could use name brand Desitin))
  2. 2 oz cortizone (1% hydrocortisone anti-itch cream - intensive healing formula)
  3. 1 oz triple anti-biotic ointment (bacitracin zinc/neomycin sulfate/polymyxin B sulfate)
  4. 1.59 oz monistat 7 (2% miconazole nitrate vaginal cream)
  5. 1 oz athlete’s foot cream (1% terbafine-hydrochloride antifungal cream (you can also use name brand Lamisil); and
  6. 10 mg Dexamethasone powder (get from your vet)

Mix all these up into a jar. I clean his legs daily or every other day with Dawn Ultra liquid dish soap and warm water. Once his legs are dry, i use a glove and spread the ointment mixture liberally on his scratches spots. Clears them up in days!

Literally the ONLY thing that I have found that works.

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