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How to effectively treat your horse for rain rot

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It’s that time of year again, wet, hot, and humid. Just like humans suffer from athlete’s foot after wearing sweaty socks trapping the dampness to the skin, horses also get a fungus called rain rot. Rain rot typically sprouts its ugly head in the warmer months of the year. It can start simply as dry, flaky skin, but left untreated the skin will bubble up with crusty scabs and underlying pink, fleshy blisters blanketed across the horse’s back.

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Rain rot occurs after heavy rains or wet grounds. The horse rolls on the ground to absorb the moisture from their coat. The dirt clogs the skin's pores and the moisture encourages bacterial growth. At first, the skin will be dry and flaky. If it continues to fester, it will form hard, crusty scabs at the base of the hair follicles. After a few weeks, the hair will start to fall off leaving patches of bald areas with a black film covering the skin. Ultimately, the fungus will eat away at the skin causing blisters and open sores spreading across the body.

While rehabilitating horses over the past five years, the Domino Effect Rescue Ranch has taken in many horses with severe cases of rain rot. At times, the rain rot is so severe that after the first treatment the hair just rolls off their body, leaving pink, fleshy blisters under the skin. In cases this severe, it takes several weeks of treatments for the skin to heal and to see the first sign of new hair growth. The most common question people ask, how do you treat rain rot?

There are many expensive products that come in a liquid or spray to treat rain rot fungus. Although, many of these products are suitable, they are a costly expense adding to a tight budget. Treating rain rot can be as simple as buying low-cost Dollar General brand items such as baby oil and antiseptic mouthwash.

Things you will need:

1. An empty 32-oz shampoo bottle.

2. A 1.5 liter bottle of Dollar General Antiseptic Mouthwash.

3. A 20-oz bottle of Dollar General Baby Oil with Aloe Vera and vitamin E.

4. Metal or rubber Currycomb (preferably rubber if severe case).

How to treat rain rot:

1. First pour half of the bottle of antiseptic mouthwash into the empty 32-oz bottle.

2. Then pour about half of the baby oil into the 32-oz bottle with the mouthwash until full.

3. Place the lid on tight and mix the contents thoroughly.

4. The shampoo lid should have a small spout at the opening. Open the lid and pour small amounts at a time over the affected areas of rain rot on the horse’s body, i.e. back, hind end, ears, legs, and chest.

5. After pouring a small amount in an area, take the other hand and thoroughly rub the medicated substance into the skin until saturating the coat.

6. Cover the entire affected area including awkward areas such as ears, forehead, and legs.

After the first application, leave on for 24 hours if possible. If the horse resides in an open pasture during the day with the hot, scorching sun, do not leave on for 24 hours. Instead, apply in the evening hours, a few hours before dark, and leave on until morning. After the first 12-24 hours, bathe the horse thoroughly. A Betadine solution can be used at this time depending on the severity, but strictly optional.

After washing the horse and rinsing thoroughly, brush the horse until completely dry before releasing back to the pasture. Use a metal or rubber currycomb to brush lightly over the skin. This will remove dead skin and scabs and will open the skin’s pores so they can breathe.

Repeat treatment once a week every week until gone.

Remember, this is a fungal skin disease that is contagious like athlete’s foot. You must treat it until it is completely gone or it will regenerate and spread.

Note: This is a very painful skin disease for horses if left untreated and can spread throughout the herd.

Ed Note: These home-remedy tips have been used repetitively at the DERR, but should be practiced at your own risk.

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