What are Dermatophilosis?
Dermatophilosis is also called streptithricosis, rain rot or rain scald. If dermatophilosis is present on the horse’s lower legs it is called dew poisoning. Any horse may contract dermatophilosis, but horses with immune deficiency, light colored horses, or equines that are left out in heavy rainfalls are more susceptible.
Dermatophilus congolensis can remain dormant on the horse, but when there is trauma to the skin the bacteria is able to gain entrance. The injury to the skin may be caused by the bite of an insect, abrasions or by a laceration. Once the bacteria enters the epidermis it causes pustules (pus filled bumps) that then scab over. When the scabs are pulled off the skin, they pull off patches of hair. The hair patches are matted together and can appear to look like the tip of a paintbrush.
Dermatophilosis is most common in the southern states of the USA. If dermatophilosis is left untreated it can lead to a secondary bacterial infections such as strep or staph.
Dermatophilosis is a common skin infection in horses caused by the bacteria Dermatophilus congolensis. This bacteria flourishes and multiplies in rainy, hot and humid areas.
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Symptoms of Dermatophilosis in Horses
Symptoms of dermatophilosis may include:
- Small bumps on the skin
- Matted hair
- Crusty scabs
- Skin inflammation
- Hair loss
- Hair tufts that look like the tip of a paintbrush
- Area is painful to the horse
Causes of Dermatophilosis in Horses
Dermatophilosis is caused by the bacteria Dermatophilus congolensis. The bacteria can be transmitted by:
- Using contaminated grooming tools
- Sharing blankets, leg wraps, halters or saddles
- Scratching post or other scratching areas
- Being close to another horse that has dermatophilosis
It is important to note that a horse can be a carrier for the bacteria, without showing any physical symptoms.
Diagnosis of Dermatophilosis in Horses
The equine veterinarian will go over the horse’s medical history. He will ask you what symptoms you have observed and when they started. The veterinarian will perform a physical exam that may include listening to your horse’s heart and lungs, taking his temperature, and palpation of the lymph nodes and the skin. The veterinarian may remove one of the scabs to see what the skin looks like beneath it. The veterinarian is probably able to diagnose dermatophilosis by the visual inspection of the skin. To confirm the diagnoses he may suggest taking a culture or a skin scrape. The Dermatophilus congolensis bacteria will be visible under a microscope. The veterinarian may recommend a complete blood count to rule a bacterial infection and to check the overall health of the horse.
Treatment of Dermatophilosis in Horses
Once dermatophilosis is diagnosed, your horse should be quarantined from the other horses in the stalls. The veterinarian will suggest using an antibacterial shampoo once or twice a week for seven days. It is recommended that you should wear gloves when dealing with dermatophilosis. Once shampooed, the horse needs to be patted dry each time. Scabs should be gently removed so the skin underneath can get oxygen, which helps with the healing process. Removing the scabs will also assist with new hair growth. The infected skin is very painful to the horse; it is better to soak the scab with a sponge dipped in a natural oil-blend product to loosen the scab before removing it.
If there is a bacterial infection the veterinarian will give your horse antibiotic injections. Topical antiseptic ointment may also be prescribed. The horse’s tack, grooming tools, and saddle need to be cleaned and washed. Stalls and scratching posts need to also be cleaned.
There are homeopathic remedies that may be able to aid with the horse’s irritated skin. Graphites 30c is recommended for pustules that have opened. Rhus Tox 6c may aid with very inflamed skin. Calendula tincture sprayed on the lesions can also help the skin to heal.
Recovery of Dermatophilosis in Horses
Usually there is some visual improvement to the skin in a few days. The horse’s skin needs to stay dry. It is important to follow the veterinarian’s treatment plan, to fully get rid of dermatophilosis. Your horse should not be saddled or ridden until the skin has healed. Follow-up visits will be required to check on the horse’s progress. The veterinarian may want to take another culture or skin scrape, to make sure the bacteria is totally gone.
To help prevent dermatophilosis from reoccurring, ticks, mosquitoes, and horseflies need to be controlled. Light traps, flypaper, and applying insecticides can help manage infestations. Your horse should not be a left out in heavy rains, or left to walk in standing water. It is also a good idea not to share grooming tools and other equipment with other horses.