My older Cushings horse developed something like a nasty rain rot. Her skin was hot and it was painful to her to be brushed. Dr. Lacher’s recommended treatment (bathe with chlorhexadine, coat with baby oil, leave on overnight, bathe again) was an overnight fix. However, the problem has returned and it seems also to be occurring now, much more mildly, in some of our other horses. Is this a contagious issue? If not, why would they all be getting this–is there an environmental trigger?
What can I do to prevent this from recurring? It’s a pain to treat!
The joys of Florida! All our heat and humidity are great for creating skin funk. Let’s start with a bit of equine history. Horses were designed to live in much colder places than Florida. This means they have an undercoat, along with their regular coat. An undercoat works to trap heat radiating from the body and block water coming from the environment. Unfortunately those same properties cause the undercoat to trap heat and water vapor coming off the body in our climate. This creates a wonderful sauna at the skin level. What loves a sauna? Bacteria. In particular a bacteria called Dermatopholis congolensis. Here is a beautiful picture of D. congolensis.
A few others sometimes join in like Staphylococcus aureus. These bacteria are part of the normal flora of the skin. It does seem like it is contagious but it is more a matter of all horses are exposed to the same environmental risk factors at the same time.
Treatments are aimed at killing the little buggers and then setting up an unhappy environment for them. We start with an antibacterial shampoo like Equishield CK. The most important thing to remember when using this shampoo is TIME. Gently get the soap down to the level of the skin and then let it sit for 10 minutes. Scrubbing hard removes the crusts but also damages the skin making it easier for the bacteria to invade. After 10 minutes rinse the soap off, again, gently. If your horse has a particularly bad case spray the worst areas with Equishield CK spray. Equishield CK salve can used on the backs of the pasterns to treat and prevent infections in this tricky location. In bad cases antibiotics are used.
Prevention is tricky and involves daily battles to win the war. Prevention starts with a curry comb, and a good diet. Regular grooming keeps the skin happy so it is better prepared to ward off invasions by bacteria. Good nutrition keeps the immune system primed and ready to attack the moment bacteria are spotted. So groom regularly and feed well: check. Next, while grooming every day, check for telltale bumps and crusts on your horse’s skin and treat immediately. Silver Sox on the legs do a great job treating and preventing infections on the lower limbs. Keeping your horse as dry as possible by using waterproof sheets or blankets during the winter helps reduce the severity of infections. Unfortunately, body clipping increases your horse’s risk of skin infections by causing tiny amounts of damage to the skin and removing the protective layer of hair making it easier for water to get all the way down to the skin.
Could you please present the available calming supplements/medications available to owners with highly reactive, AKA “spooky” horses? It would be nice to see them described from lightest effect to the most likely to produce effects on all horses. Cost of each would be helpful too. Thanks!
Ever since the first human was bucked off for the first time, we have been looking for a little help at better living through chemistry. Calming substances generally work one of two ways: they make the brain tired or they make the muscles slow to respond.
If you are looking for a reliable, consistent response pharmaceuticals are the best bet. These include the powerful sedatives like Dormosedan, acepromazine, and Sedivet. These also include two common long acting sedatives: reserpine and fluphenazine. Sedatives will always work but they also are prohibited in the show ring.
Herbal or Nutraceutical options are sometimes effective, sometimes not so much. Our general rule of thumb is if it is banned by USEF it is probably effective. These include Valerian Root, melatonin, and high doses of tryptophan. GABA, and its metabolites, are relatively new calming supplements that have been banned by most organizations. If you are looking for a little bit of calm on a green horse headed out to a new experience things like valerian root can work really well. Each horse responds differently to this class of calming agents so experimentation is key. We also recommend assuming an herbal or nutraceutical will test for horse show purposes.
Two new options are Zylkene and ConfidenceEQ. Both are safe for horse shows. Zylkene works off the same principal as the “milk coma” babies experience. It is a feed through powder that is started several days before the event. Dr. Lacher has tried it on one of her very hot horses. She was happy with the results which left the horse feeling well lunged without the lunging. ConfidenceEQ is a pheromone. Pheromones work as inhaled communications between horses. This particular one is the “be calm” pheromone and works best on horses who experience fear or separation anxiety.
Prices for these products are highly variable with the herbals generally being the most expensive. Each horse and each situation is very different so we recommend giving us a call or e-mail to help formulate a plan.
How accurate and successful is allergy testing and injection therapy for horses with Culicoides (gnat) allergy?
There are two types of allergy testing available: intradermal and serum.
Serum is a simple blood draw. The blood is then tested to see what substances it reacts to. Serum allergy testing is easy, but not very accurate. It creates a lot of false positives. The blood will react to something but the horse isn’t actually allergic to it.
Intradermal testing injects small amounts of the allergen in to the skin to determine if the body reacts. The severity of the reaction is directly related to the severity of the allergy. This information can then be used to formulate immunotherapy (allergy shots) or to alter the horse’s environment to avoid the worst allergens.
On to Culicoides allergies specifically. Intradermal and serum testing can tell us a horse is allergic to Culicoides. Unfortunately, immunotherapy does not work on this particular allergy. Culicoides is very complicated as allergies go. It involves several different parts of the allergy response system. Immunotherapy works to dampen a small portion of the system that doesn’t play a large role for gnat allergic horses. But….there’s always a but. Allergies are cumulative. That means every response your horse has to every allergen works to enhance the response to the next allergen they are exposed to. This means allergy testing can help you identify all the great stuff your horse is allergic to. By managing as many of the allergies as you can, you decrease your horses response to allergens overall.
I’m trying to establish a daily equine routine. Is there a recommended time frame for exercising your horse? For example, waiting a certain amount of time after feeding or not directly before feeding time. I’m referring to light work and training exercises.
Horses thrive on schedule in their lives. This means exercising them at the same time of the day is the most important thing for them. If you can’t exercise them at the same time of the day, set up a pre-exercise routine. Put them on the cross ties, groom them, bring out the saddle, etc. This will allow your horse to mentally prepare for exercise.
Old wisdom dictates one hour after feeding before your horse can be ridden. This advice is largely based on how humans feel after eating and not how horses feel. It is also from a time when very different meals were fed to horses. Horses once lived on lots of oats and other whole grains which required the digestive tract to work extra hard to extra nutrition and created a lot of excess gas. Modern diets are formulated to the horse’s GI tract in a much more scientific way. We recommend giving your horse time to eat and 10-15 minutes to empty the stomach before riding. This rule does change if you are heading out to do trot sets or a long gallop but if you are headed out for a light to moderate ride, saddle up and go!