The cold and damp season does not only bring one or the other hurdle for us humans with itself. Our four-legged friends also suffer. In some horses, this manifests itself in the form of what is known as regeneczema. What the disease has in common with its namesake – sweet itch, how you can recognize it and what you can do about dermatophilosis in horses, read here!
What is equine sweet itch?
Basically, the disease, colloquially known as rain eczema or rain rash, is a skin infection. This is caused by a specific bacterium (Dermatophilus congolensis bacterium). The disease is typically found in wet and cold areas (e.g., in the summer).B. Ireland and Iceland). In Germany, however, it is still relatively rare.
Here the disease is mainly found in horses that stand outside in wet weather for a very long time. However, some risk factors are known to promote the spread of dermatophilosis. Animals with long coats are affected more often, as moisture can collect and adhere particularly well here.
It is not uncommon for horses suffering from dermatophilosis to already suffer from a weakened immune system (z.B. due to colic, mold, change of coat, etc.). Particularly if the skin is already attacked before, as it is for example with Mauke, the summer eczema or different allergies the bacterium has an easy play. This is because the open wounds that are sometimes left behind here provide the perfect breeding ground for it.
Disease progression of dermatophilosis
But how does the rain eczema actually develop? If it rains a lot, the horse's skin dries out more and more, because the rain washes out the protective fats, so to speak. As a reaction the skin becomes brittle. Small cracks form. These provide the perfect breeding ground for a wide variety of bacteria – including Dermatophilus congolensis. It feels well above all at cool temperatures with little brightness. Accordingly, the autumn and winter periods are the most critical to consider.
Basically, the bacterium nests in the uppermost layer of the skin in the process. If it sits deep enough in the cracks so that no air can reach it, it multiplies. This can be recognized at the beginning by a kind of pustule, which quickly crusts over. The affected areas are usually red and slightly warm due to the inflammation.
It is important that you clarify such observations as soon as possible with the veterinarian. If dermatophilosis remains untreated in the horse, it spreads further and further. Yet the sores don't just look unsightly. The shedding of fur, which often accompanies the course of the disease, is painful and the accompanying fever is exhausting for the entire organism.
Horses with long coats are more often affected by rain eczema
Recognizing rain mange: Symptoms
We have just briefly highlighted the most important symptoms. However, at this point we would like to go into more detail on how to diagnose dermatophilosis in horses. It is important to know that the disease occurs more frequently on the back, neck, legs and croup. Here as well as z.T. on the sides and flanks the bacteria often find the perfect breeding ground. Specifically, rain mange can then manifest itself like this:
– Pustule and wart formation v.a. at the known places – Reddening of the skin – Warmed body regions around the wounds – Swollen or. Hardened wounds – Leaking wound secretion – Hair falls out with the loosening crusts (bald patches) – Sensitive reaction to touch
Basically, dermatophilosis in horses is similar to sweet itch, which we have explained in another article. However, while pustules, thickening of the skin and weeping sores are typical of both, rain eczema will not usually scale or itch. Instead, especially the loss of fur together with the fever in the horse often causes terrible pain, which is why the animals also seem more unbalanced and nervous overall. In addition, rain eczema is not an allergy, but usually a temporary condition.
Dermatophilosis in horses is very similar to sweet itch. Tail with open chafing is not uncommon.
Rain eczema in horses: treatment methods
If you suspect that your horse might be suffering from rain eczema? Then you should definitely consult the vet in the first step to have your suspicions confirmed. This will work with you to develop a treatment plan. The focus is usually on two factors: an internal and an external treatment.
Protect the horse's skin
First of all, it is important to calm the skin itself and get rid of the bacterium again. For this purpose, you should make sure that your animal is kept as dry as possible. A shelter or even a temporary rest in the stall is often the right way to do this. It is best if your horse can soak up a lot of sun in the process. Because the UV light promotes the healing process enormously. As this is not always easy in autumn and winter, a solarium or UV light emitter can be used instead – if available.
Once this is done, it is a matter of treating the sores themselves. The be-all and end-all here is hygiene. It is best to disinfect the grooming kit and other utensils before each use, and use disposable gloves when coming into contact with the skin. This will ensure that you do not reintroduce the bacteria into the areas that have already been cleaned. Then wash the wounds carefully with soapy water (z.B. from eczema or curd soap) or a very mild shampoo. Afterwards you can gently loosen the bark and disinfect the wounds. This treatment can last up to 6 weeks. Should be repeated daily.
In horses with very long coats, it may be advisable to shear them. This not only makes treatment easier, it also gives bacteria less of a breeding ground. And if your animal has to go out in the rain, it is best to use a water-repellent blanket. It is also better to disinfect them again before use.
The pasture walk in the rain should take place with a water-repellent blanket, in order to offer the bacteria no breeding ground for a rain eczema.
Strengthen the immune system
We mentioned at the beginning that horses with an already weakened immune system are more prone to contracting dermatophilosis. It is all the more important that you support your animal accordingly. You should pay particular attention to the gastrointestinal tract in autumn and winter, as it is often affected by the change in feed that usually accompanies this.
Recommended here can be the administration of linseed, brewer's yeast and mineral clay. A special food and food supplements to strengthen the immune system, the stomach and the liver and kidneys is also a useful addition.
Preventing dermatophilosis in horses: what you can do
Of course, it is best if you can completely prevent the outbreak of dermatophilosis in your horse. With a few tips this is actually not so difficult either. Above all, make sure that you support your horse's immune system during the wet season and provide a dry shelter. Check the ground regularly – if it is too muddy, you should change the paddock if possible.
But the main cause of infection with rain mange is actually the skin being too dry. Because too much water, as it is the case with constant rain, leads exactly to it as explained above. Therefore, support sensitive areas best with a balm. This forms a kind of second protective layer. Keeps the water from entering the skin. Special attention should be paid to the risk areas (shoulders, legs, back and croup).
Also important: Take off boots and hoof bells when they are not needed. Because moisture likes to collect underneath. Together with the darkness and the friction, a perfect breeding ground for the rain eczema is created.
Wounds of rain eczema on horses must be cared for. Attention should be paid to a dry shelter.
Risk of infection for humans and animals
Strictly speaking, rain mange is transmissible to conspecifics as well as to humans. However, infection can usually be avoided if you are really meticulous about hygiene. Because the bacteria only spread when they come into contact with pre-damaged areas – i.e. cracks and wounds on the skin. Care products on this can be found here. Therefore, it is best to check yourself as well as your flock for wounds. Cover them accordingly with a healing cream. Keep an eye on these areas even after isolating the infected animal to rule out the possibility that bacteria have already settled here. In order to prevent the spread of the disease, regular disinfection of hands, cleaning utensils, blankets and everything else that comes into contact with the wounds is indispensable. If you pay attention to this, the probability of getting infected is minimal.
2 Comments on "Dermatophilosis in horses: understanding rain eczema"
The other day I read a study concerning the Borna virus, which found that approx. 60% of all horses are affected. Are such figures also available for dermatophilosis??
Otherwise really good article! Keep up the good work. Stay healthy!