My Own Personal Secrets for Treating Winter Rain Rot


Winter Rain Rot brings with it a unique and frustrating challenge for horse owners.  In many parts of the United States, it is simply too cold to shampoo your horse. Your horse most especially doesn’t want to be turned into a popsicle.

Occasionally I get a new rescue horse in that suffers from winter rain rot. If my horse is fighting a case of winter rain rot, here’s what I do.

Easy Treatment for Winter Rain Rot

The treatment for winter rain rot couldn’t be easier.  I just give my Equiderma Skin Lotion a good shake, apply it to any affected areas and leave it on.

With the first treatment, it may be tempting to remove any scabs or loose hair but don’t.  It will be painful for the horse. I don’t pick at all because Equiderma Skin Lotion will do the job for me. It softens the scabs and makes removal easy, so leave it alone, let Equiderma do its job and give it 24 hours .

After 24 hours, I get a bucket of warm water and a rough washcloth or towel.  I soak the towel in the warm water and wring it out well. Then I rub the area as I normally would as if I were currying the horse in a circular motion.  My goal is to remove any scabs, dead tissue and hair. The scabs always come off easily at this stage and I continue removing as much debris as possible.

Finally, I repeat the process with my towel for 2 mores days and re-apply the skin lotion each time. When I look closely, I can see new hair growth within 24 to 72 hours.  This is a good indicator the healing has begun. Soon my horse will be as good as new.

What Exactly Is Rain Rot?

The organism dermatophilus congolensis causes rain rot in horses. Dermatophilus congolensis is not a fungus. It is an actinomycetes, which behaves like both bacteria and fungi.  These organisms can live in dormancy on the skin for some time, and become active with moisture, high humidity and warm temperatures.  During winter it can easily develop when blanketing is prevalent.  The blanket warms your horse and also creates a warm, cozy environment for dermatophiles to proliferate. Both conditions are the perfect environment to grow a flourishing garden of rain rot.  Zoospores germinate to produce barbed, threadlike tentacles, which penetrate into the living skin and spread in all directions. The result is an acute inflammatory reaction as in these photos.

Microscopic View of Dermatophilus Congolensis

If your horse spends the majority of time outside in wet, rainy conditions, you should check for rain rot often. A visual evaluation does not suffice, especially during the wet winter months when horses have heavy winter coats. A hands-on examination is necessary. An infected horse will have bumps along the back and croup. When pulled, the hair will easily come free leaving an infected, hairless spot of skin. The problem is easily diagnosed this way, but a definitive diagnosis can be made only from taking a culture and having it tested.


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