Tuesdays with Tony
This week I want to talk to you about something very near to me. Definitely not near and dear to my heart, just something that drives this cat crazy a large portion of the year, and from what I understand, drives my docs and you horse owners just ask crazy: skin funk. I unfortunately suffer from seasonal allergies, and boy, when my allergies are kicking, is my skin just a mess! It’s itchy and sore and I get these little red bumps and scabs all over me. It is utterly miserable. Horses also get the skin funk, as you all know. Living in Florida where it is hot and humid almost year-round, we deal with skin issues all the time.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with rain rot, well then, I know a lot of people who are very jealous of you and your horse. Florida is the perfect breeding grounds for rain rot, or as you all like to call it, fungus. You know that nasty crud that hangs out on the front of your horse’s cannon bones, or those crusty scabs that just peel off your horse’s back along with clumps of their hair? I know you know it; I get questions about it all the time.
Let’s first debunk the myth that rain rot is a fungus. Surprise, surprise, it is not, so all those anti-fungal shampoos and home remedies you have for rain rot and fungus are just super fancy treatments that may or may not help. Rain rot is actually a bacterial infection of the skin caused by dermatophilus bacteria. Your horse’s coat naturally has dermatophilus bacteria that live on it without harming your horse’s skin. However, when humidity mixes with warm weather and slows the drying of your horse’s coat, the bacteria multiplies, resulting in rain rot.
Rain rot is very contagious. If you have a horse in your barn that has some of this skin funk, I highly recommend keeping all of their grooming supplies separate. I don’t like to share anything with other cats, heck, I barely tolerate Teenie Cat. Take it from me, sharing is not caring. I know what you’re thinking, “but my anti-fungal shampoos work so well!” This is because most of those treatments also have anti-bacterial properties which help to control the spread of bacteria.
You’re probably wondering about the best way to treat dermatophilus. There is not just one right answer, but what I do recommend is bathing. Ask my docs about the best shampoo to use for your situation and if there are any other topical treatments to use. Remember, rain rot can be painful, so be gentle during treatments. I also recommend drying your horse’s coat before putting them in their stall. You can use towels or fans to help with the drying processes. Finally, body clipping can help tremendously. It’s hot and the humidity is ramping up, and if your horse hasn’t shed his coat yet, you are asking for a rain rot problem. Getting your horse body clipped helps them dry faster and reduces the risk of rain rot.
The dreaded summer sore. Those pesky flies and their stupid little mouths and stupid little feet that carry stomach worm larva are to blame for summer sores. I like to think I do my part on controlling the fly population by hunting flies for about 3 minutes a day. Flies land on injured skin, mucous membranes, or other moist areas on your horse and deposit the larva. Since the flies leave the larva in abnormal places, it cannot develop into an adult and results in an inflammatory reaction and results in an ulcerated, red, itchy sore characterized by hard yellow granules that are present within the sore. Summer sores can be a giant pain in this cat’s rear end and once a farm has one horse with summer sores, they are likely to have many other horses infected. Unlike dermatophilus, summer sores are not passed from horse to horse by means of grooming equipment. However, one horse can produce the stomach worm larva and flies can land on any horse at any time.
Preventing summer sores is a multi-step process. The first step is to control the fly population. If you haven’t read my blogs on flies, I recommend you do so now. If you notice a lesion on your horse that you suspect is a summer sore, the first thing you are going to do is call me, and I’ll get you in touch with my docs. You can even use Medici, our telemedicine app, to show them the sore and keep up with social distancing. My docs will assess the sore. Occasionally, they may suggest a biopsy of the lesion to confirm that it is a summer sore or determine if it is something such as a squamous cell carcinoma.
Typical treatment for a summer sore includes deworming on a specific schedule laid out by my docs, antibiotics, and steroids. My docs will assess your horse’s wound and determine the best treatment, so if you are concerned about a lesion on your horse, call the clinic today.
Horses are just so sensitive! You would think for an animal that is meant to live outdoors they would be better equipped to deal with the bugs. Apparently, however, they find gnats just as annoying as I do. Those suckers are a lot more difficult to catch than flies are. They also cause a heck of a lot of problems for your horses.
Commonly known as sweet itch, gnats bite your horse, deposit their saliva, and your horse has an allergic reaction. This results in your horse itching and rubbing to the point that they rub their mane and tail off, rub their ears raw, and scratch until they have open sores on their abdomen, leaving them prone to summer sores.
Unfortunately, gnats are a lot more difficult to eliminate than flies are. However, it is possible to provide protection from gnats. Ask my docs which salves and sprays can help to keep the gnats off your horse. Fly sheets can also help protect your horse from gnats. However, there is no treatment that is 100% effective. Sometimes, my docs will elect to put your horse on an antihistamine that will help decrease the severity of the allergic reaction your horse has to the gnat saliva. I take a medication call Apoquel for my allergies, let me tell you, it works wonders and helps keep my skin and coat silky smooth. Apoquel is also available for horses and works fantastically to treat sweet itch. If you have questions about treating your horse’s sweet itch, call me and I’ll get your horse on the schedule for my docs to come evaluate and determine the best course of treatment.
By no means have I discussed all the skin problems your horse can have. However, if you have a question or concern about your horse’s skin, call me! And tune in to our Facebook Live Seminar this month for more information about treating your horse’s skin funk. I will be monitoring the feed for questions so be sure to tune in and ask all those burning questions you have about skin.
Until next week,
P.S. If you want to know more, check out my YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/user/SpringhillEquineVet/videos. There are videos of past seminars on both skin funk and summer sores, as well as a lot of other great free information, and Yours Truly makes a cameo appearance in many of them.
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat 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!