Rain Rot: What is it and how to deal with it

Happily living on the skin of horses is a bacterium going by the name of Dermatophilus Congolensis. Like most things in the world, the relationship between your horse and their naturally skin residing companions is all about balance. The skin microbiome plays its role for a healthy immune system among many other benefits. Their population is kept in check by the help of the flowing salts and oil excreted through the skin. However excessive and persistent moisture will disrupt this balance and provides the opportunity for the bacterium to get a little out of control. The result? Mud fever on the lower limbs and rain rot over the head, neck and body. 

Both infections are notable by skin lesions characterised by a crust, and clumped hair and swelling will often be seen in mud fever. It may look nasty and sound severe but thanks to the modern marvel of antibiotics, Dermatophilus Congolensis numbers can be reduced back to a healthy level. 

Whether you and your horse live in the UK where we are all too well accustomed to heavy and persistent rain, or if you are fortunate enough to live in a warmer but humid climate it can be challenging to avoid persistent exposure to moisture. However, there are a few tricks to reduce the chances and severity;

  • Clean and dry heels and pasterns daily. A homemade remedy of 50% baby oil and 50% vinegar can be applied once dry
  • Regular change over of wet and dirty rugs with dry and clean ones
  • Simple washing with soap or shampoo can help to stop rain rot getting worse
  • Tea Tree Oil is one of the world’s natural wonders and is an antiseptic. A little spray of this fantastic natural product (dilute 1:9 with water) will help reduce the spread of infection
  • Diet supplements will help maintain and build up your horse's natural immune system

So there you have it. The pictures may resemble some horrific disease one only sees in the movies but thankfully it is not as severe as it appears on the surface. The culprit is just an ordinary bacteria that has gone a little wild, and out of control but is easily put back into its place with accessible and straightforward preventative measures, remedies and medicine.