Woohoo, this blog-writing stuff is fun! Tony, my amazing blog mentor, said it was tedious trying to get the humans to understand. I think he, like many cats, is a bit jaded. I, on the other hand, am a humble mouse who is excited to learn and share all the things I glean hanging around the Clinic. This week I learned that horses have a body part called a pastern, and that it is prone to skin infections. I also learned horse people love to call the same thing by a bunch of different names. Pastern dermatitis is the fancy name, but it has been known to go by Scratches, Mud Fever, Dew Poisoning, Greasy Heel, and the list goes on. Let’s learn all about it this week!
Location, Location, Location
Since I’m new to all this horse stuff, Tony and I started with a talk about anatomy. We also started with him informing me that it’s a pastern, not a pasture. I felt my confusion was understandable. As a field mouse, I’m well acquainted with pastures. Pasterns, not so much. Anywho, pasterns are the bit of the leg between the hoof and the ankle. It became apparent why they might be prone to skin infections once I understood the location. That area gets exposed to all that pastures, footing in an arena, and water running off the body has to offer. Listening to the Doctors talk about it further confirmed my suspicions. This location takes a beating!
What Is Pastern Dermatitis?
Pastern dermatitis is usually a collection of a bunch of different kinds of bacteria, and sometimes a bit of fungus. These critters just love all the moisture and dirt that collects at the pastern. If your horse lives outside for some or all of the day, that area may stay wet for a good portion of the day. Especially in Florida in the summer, the day starts with a heavy dew on the grass, then the heat and humidity really kick in, and the day ends with a lovely thunderstorm. The pastern never gets a chance to fully dry, and that’s a recipe bacteria and fungus love! Then the body makes crusts and scabs from the infection, which makes even better living conditions for microscopic things. The key point here is that pastern dermatitis is not just one kind of bacteria or fungus. It’s a collection. This means a broad spectrum approach is needed.
Making it Go Away
Listening to the Doctors talk about pastern dermatitis, I learned that Equishield CK salve is their go-to treatment. This salve has an antibacterial and an antifungal component, so it takes care of all the potential causes of the problem. I heard them say the salve also does a great job repelling water from the skin. Based on what I learned about moisture and pastern dermatitis, this salve seems perfect!
The Doctors said for most horses, this is all that’s needed. Daily application to get the infection under control, and then once or twice weekly application to make pastern dermatitis stay away. However, they also spoke about horses with really bad cases of pastern dermatitis. For these horses, systemic antibiotics might be necessary, along with pain medications, and a more aggressive topical therapy than CK salve. Luckily, this doesn’t happen very often!
What you never, ever want to do with pastern dermatitis is scrub hard. The best way to get the crusts and scabs to go away is to soften them with topical salves, then rinse them off the next day. Do not pick them off, despite how much you humans love to do such things!
Tony filled me in on the human saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That sure seems to apply here. Keeping those pasterns clean and dry makes it hard for bacteria and fungus to grow there. Applying products like CK Salve or diaper rash ointment to the pasterns keeps the moisture from sticking when your horse is outside. Diligent monitoring for any scabs lets you start treatment quickly before pastern dermatitis becomes a big deal. All that seems simple!
Sometimes it’s Different
Tony has also told me that horses are weird. He says that a lot. Pastern dermatitis has its own version of weirdness. If your horse’s leg is white or roan, it might have leukocytoclastic vasculitis instead of pastern dermatitis. Whoa, those are big words!!! The Doctors said this is an immune mediated problem that is set up by sunlight on white legs. It can look a lot like pastern dermatitis, but it doesn’t respond to the same treatments. So if you’ve got a horse with a white leg, and you’re doing all the right things and that pastern dermatitis isn’t responding, it’s time to call the Doctors for a visit!
Whew! Made it through another blog! As the newly appointed Official Clinic Mouse and Blog Writer, I was nervous, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. Pastern dermatitis was very interesting, and I can’t wait to learn even more about horses. Tony has been great, too. We go over my blogs before I send them to you guys, then he returns to driving his golf cart around, and yelling at kids to get off his lawn. You know, the stuff retired folks do.
That’s it for this week!
P.S. Have you seen the new video series that the humans around here put on YouTube? It’s called, Horse Girl Goes to the Vet, and it’s a riot! If you have 3 minutes for a good laugh (and maybe a nugget of wisdom!), click this link to check it out! And make sure you subscribe while you’re there so you don’t miss out on upcoming videos!
Whinny’s Wisdoms is the official blog of Whinny the Clinic Mouse at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!