Pastern Dermatitis

Pastern Dermatitis, aka “Scratches”, “Mud fever,” “Greasy heel”

Pastern dermatitis is the name for a skin reaction that can have a variety of causes. Most commonly the area affected is the back of the pasterns and heels but sometimes the inflammation can extend up the entire lower limb. White-haired areas seems to be more commonly affected than dark-haired areas. The appearance is of scabby oozing lesions on the skin, sometimes forming thick crusts. The skin when cleaned off has the bright pink appearance of inflammation and sometimes has ulcerated areas. In chronic cases the skin can become thickened and plaque-like.  This condition is very painful for the horse, and can cause lameness in some cases.

Causes for pastern dermatitis include bacterial infection, contact with caustic substances, fungal infection, mites and photosensitization related to pasture plant toxicity. Chronically wet skin and hair from environmental moisture (such as tall wet grass in a pasture) can weaken the skin’s defenses and lead to the infection that causes scratches. Some horses can have an immune-mediated condition that causes pastern dermatitis.

Treatment for pastern dermatitis includes the following:

  • Clipping the hair from the affected area to allow easy access to the skin and to help keep the area dry.
  • Gently cleaning the skin with warm water and antibacterial scrubs such as Betadine or Chlorhexadine. After softening the scabs and crusts with the wash, they are gently removed. This can be quite painful and may require sedation of the horse.
  • The leg is dried after each cleaning and then topical medications are applied. We like to use Animax ointment which provides antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory activity.
  • In some cases we wrap the legs initially to keep them clean and dry or may put the horse on an injectable antibiotic as well. Many horses are also put on Bute or Banamine to help with pain.

Some horses suffer from recurrent episodes of pastern dermatitis. In these cases we try to determine an underlying cause by looking at the environment (is the horse in a chronically wet or muddy area) and perhaps doing a biopsy of the skin.

Recent Blog Posts

It’s all about TEAMWORK!

This week, Dr. Mary, Dr, Eva and Dr. Melissa working together with the help of another veterinarian (who also happened to own the equine patient), learned to perform a standing enucleation (eye removal). Cooperating and coordinating to learn these new procedures is vital to our success as veterinarians. In some practices, it can be an every man/woman for themselves philosophy…or even worse, veterinarians work in competition with each other for cases and patients.

Read More
Let’s Talk CBD

It’s been awhile since we have had a blog…so let’s make this one a good one. Let’s talk CBD products and horses. Here we go…

Read More
A Diary From a Pasture Weeder

The other night, I spent an hour or so weeding. I was not weeding my flower or vegetable garden; I was weeding my horse’s pasture”by hand. We had moved in about a month ago, and I had already planned out where I wanted to put fencing, how I wanted to divide my pastures, and what fencing I was installing. My horse was moving here the next weekend, and I still had a lot of work to do. There are many things to think about when converting an acreage into a safe home for your horse. I had already planned for many things, but until I moved in, I hadn’t had a chance to take one final step. I had to ensure my pastures were free of noxious weeds. After an extensive survey, I located three potential hazards: hoary allyssum, night shade, and maple trees.

Read More

Exceptional Equine Veterinary Care

Weitz Equine Veterinary Services is a full service, ambulatory equine veterinary practice based out of Northfield, MN
and serving the following areas: Carver County, Dakota County, Goodhue County, Rice County & Scott County.