Rain Rot? Try This.

Written by: Jessica Konopinski

Published on: 03/22/2024

If there’s one thing we know about maintaining a healthy horse it's that moist conditions can definitely make caring for your horse more difficult. A wet environment can have negative effects on a horse's hooves and skin making it more difficult to keep infections at bay. If your horse has ever been caught in these types of conditions maybe you’ve noticed little scabs presented on your horses skin. This is known as rain rot and is one of the most common skin conditions seen in horses that can be a pain to get rid of. Not sure how to prevent this? We went ahead and put together your ultimate guide to understanding, preventing and treating rain rot this rainy season.

What Is Rain Rot?

Rain rot is an infection of the skin caused by a bacterium known as Dermatophilus congolensis. [1] Resembling something similar to fungi, rain rot appears as little scabs on the top layer of the skin. This can cause irritation to any horse and when trying to remove can cause discomfort, pain and often takes the hair away with it leaving the affected area bare.

Rain rot can appear anywhere on horses' bodies, but most commonly on their hindquarters, face and legs. In reference to the name, rain rot can begin to develop on a horse that has been caught in wet and rainy conditions. The more a horse is left untreated in these conditions, the more the bacterium can build up. Another common situation in which rain rot can develop is when a horse urinates on a surface that is not absorbent and in turn, the urine splashes up on their legs. Ensuring your horse is not left in a stall without shavings or an absorbent ground support is key in preventing this.

How Do You Prevent Rain Rot?

Since we can’t control the weather or sometimes the exact environment our horse lives in, preventing rain rot takes some getting creative. First things first- shelter. If your horse is subject to moist conditions, providing them with some shelter can encourage them to stay dry. [1] If you have a horse who is hesitant to use the shelter during rainy weather, feeding them their hay or grain under the shelter can help them get acclimated. Another great addition to the shelter whether it be a run in shed or a stall in a barn would be mats, shavings or anything that could keep their hooves and legs dry.

In addition to providing shelter, implementing a rigorous and consistent grooming routine is crucial. To prevent the bacteria from forming, lifting the hair and dirt by using a curry comb and brushing routinely can absolutely help the spread of the infection. If your horse is constantly stuck in moist conditions, introducing routine baths using antimicrobial shampoo and fully drying them off before allowing them to roll can be in your horses best interest. In more serious cases, your veterinarian may provide you with a prescription strength antimicrobial treatment upon consultation and request. [3]

How Do You Treat Rain Rot?

Now that we know what rain rot is and how to prevent it, what if your horse is already suffering from the condition? The good news is that rain rot — in most cases — is absolutely treatable. Similarly to how we discussed how to prevent rain rot with antimicrobial shampoo, this can also work in treating existing rain rot. If you’re struggling to find one that works effectively, reach out to your veterinarian about potentially prescribing a higher strength antimicrobial shampoo.

If your horse has been suffering from rain rot for a long period of time and it's causing great discomfort, it is definitely recommended to contact your veterinarian. Some veterinarians will go as far as collecting a skin biopsy to determine where the infection is stemming from. [3] Antibiotic injections along with a range of other prescription strength antimicrobial products may be some other options recommended to you by your veterinarian.

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About the Author

Jessica is a brand consultant who brings awareness and intention to equestrian and pet platforms. As a former collegiate equestrian athlete and animal lover, Jessica leads with passion and experience through her writing and brand work for companies who advocate for creating a difference in their space. When she's not riding her horse or walking her dog (with iced coffee in hand), you can find her sharing her love for health and wellness with others and integrating these practices in her everyday work.