Rain rot, rain scald, also known as streptothricosis, occurs in horses where there is high humidity, sometimes along with high temperatures, but not always. This is not a serious condition, but work can’t continue as the equipment is likely to rub on the affected areas.

The appearance of this condition is large scabs or small matted tufts of hair. Underneath the scabs it is usually pink with pus. Then it dries and turns grey. The skin may be lumpy to feel. The tufted hair will eventually fall out, leaving bald patches.

It can appear almost anywhere, but the common areas are on the back, the rump, the front of the canon bone, the back of the fetlock, the tips of the ears, around the muzzle, around the eyes, the lower neck. Normally this condition is not troublesome for the horse.

Although rain rot or rain scald is considered to be infectious, only horses with a low immune system will be affected. This can be from diet or stress.

Rain rot, or rain scald, will disappear on its own at the end of the wet season, when the winter coat falls out. But it can reappear the next wet season.

Common treatment is to keep the horse dry and in dry conditions. This may not be possible for some people. It can also drive the horse crazy, being confined too long or when he is not used to it.

Antibiotics are normally prescribed as there is a growth of bacteria. But bacteria are opportunistic scavengers and are not the cause of the problem. Antibiotics, along with all veterinary medicines are liver toxic and lower the immune system still further.

This means that although the condition may be seen to improve in the short term, it creates more long term health problems.

It is not just bacteria that is present. Fungi are too.

Topical treatment is not a good idea. Any problem comes from the inside and so the inner imbalance needs to be addressed.

Washing the horse is not a good idea as this removes any oil in the fur which insulates them against the cold.

Rugging is not always a good idea as this will create localised heat.

Preventing the condition is to make sure your horse is in good condition, especially before a wet season. Lots of good quality grass or hay provides the bulk of every horse’s diet. But the skin also benefits from an oily food. The simple addition of a little soaked flax seed can do wonders for the coat and the weight of the horse.

Many people feel you should always boil flax seed. This is not necessary and destroys many of the valuable nutrients. By soaking it (the start of sprouting) for 24 hours before feeding, you are also increasing the nutrients.

The amount of flax seed depends on the nature of the horse, his size, his current condition and his workload. However, even a large horse can improve dramatically with only a tablespoon of dry flax seed (soaking doubles its volume) every day.

You will never have any trouble feeding horses flax seed – they love it.

In some extreme cases, this may not be enough, but it must always be tried first, to eliminate the possible cause. However, homeopathic treatment can help resolve it and prevent rain rot or rain scald occurring in the subsequent seasons.

Can I help?


Madeleine Innocent

You know how often people struggle with their horse’s health? They want to know WHY they suffer with health issues and all their veterinarian can offer is drugs and more drugs? They feel helpless and at the mercy of another. Well, what I do is to help you pinpoint WHY your horse is getting sick and implement a strategy that takes you to a feeling of empowerment, of being in control of their life. A strategy that restores their health and allows you, and them, to enjoy life.

    2 replies to "Rain Rot or Rain Scald"

    • Amy Benjamin

      Good Morning! I have a horse who appears to be affected by rain rot. Never seen this before, so not sure that’s what it even is. This is a senior horse with a slight dip in his back, which is where the scabby skin is and now there is a bald patch about an inch in diameter with crusty skin around the perimeter. I have been spraying on a topical but the spot has doubled in size from when I first noticed it about a week ago. My horse eats grass hay and a small amount of grain daily. He is a haflinger (a small draft breed). I did recently change his grain from a senior specific grain to a ‘okay for all’ grain. He looked as though he was gaining weight, so I also cut back somewhat on the amount of hay I was feeding him. Can any of this be the cause of the rain rot? Will flaxseed help with this? If yes, how do I know how much to give him? Thank you!

    • Madeleine Innocent

      Every ailment is a reflection of a poor immune system. So topical treatment is unlikely to help. Grass and hay are more suitable for horses than grain especially if they’re not in hard work. Flaxseed is a healthy supplement, whether it helps this condition or not. I soak mine for 12 – 24 hrs and give the horses about 1/4 cup each, once a day.
      The problem may lie much deeper which only a consultation can dig into to discover.

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