Treating my Horses Scratches
Over the years I have had two horses who seemed susceptible to scratches. The first was a bay, however the one I have now is a chestnut, Red, and he gets it every year. (Red also gets rain rot on his face which I will save for another day.) The first year he got it, I did not have a clue what it was and his leg puffed up, he couldn’t walk right, and we ended up with a vet visit, antibiotics, cream to put on, etc. He reacted to the antibiotic and it was a mess.
Since then, I have caught the scratches earlier each time. When I catch it quickly, I can usually keep it under control. This year, Red ended up with fungus on his face and he got open sores. I think the scratches had migrated to his face, but the veterinarian did not confirm. He told me an inexpensive remedy to try, and it healed the face. I also added it to my scratches regimen on the feet and his scratches are currently gone.
I am NOT a veterinarian, but this is what works for me:
1. Using a horse bath scrubby, on the fine side, groom the area to get off the big flakes of scratches. (The person I learned this from skips this step.)
2. There is a fungicide for roses which can be purchased on the internet called Captan. It is a dry powder and it is a suspected carcinogen. It is not approved for this use. I mix up a suspension of one part Captan powder and four parts water. After it is well mixed, and wearing gloves, I take a small sponge and wipe it all over the scratches. Do not rinse it off. I do not use this suspension on my horse’s face. I use this sponge only for this use.
3. If you have open sores go to the grocery store and buy triple antibiotic ointment and hydrocortisone cream. Rub both into the scratches. These are soothing and stop the itch. I usually apply this when the feet are dry. (This is what the vet told me to use on the face, and it cleared it up and the face healed nicely.)
4. Repeat the Captan suspension daily until the scratches clear up. Disinfect your bath scrubby using a 50% lysol solution. Wash your hands after each use.
For maintenance, I watch for those little black scabs like a hawk. I clean with a scrubby if I see one and use the triple antibiotic ointment and anti-itch cream to stop it. If I think I have lost control, I go back to the Captan suspension. Any swelling and I will call the vet.
The vet has given me scratches ointment twice over the years, but I believe the above regimen works better than the ointment. At one point he suggested zinc oxide to help keep it dry. I do not use either of these any more.