Save your Horse from Summer Skin Irritations

With the summer season comes longer days, warmer weather and—unfortunately—a host of insects that wreak havoc on our horses. Not only do insects torment our horses, they also spread disease and parasites, cause skin irritations and infect wounds.

The types of insects that prey on horses are numerous, ranging from the monstrous horse fly to the nearly invisible gnat. Some bite, others don’t, but they all cause problems. The common housefly isn’t a biting fly, but it is responsible for depositing the larvae of stomach worms into a horse’s existing open sores, eyes and even the mouth, which causes what we commonly refer to as summer sores. Stable flies, black flies, deer flies and horse flies are all biters, and can pass along diseases as they move from horse to horse. Tiny midges, also called gnats or no-see-ums, often cause allergic reactions in horses, resulting in summer itch, which is also called sweet itch. Combating these pests is difficult enough without having to also deal with the additional problems they cause.

According to equine veterinarian Nancy Loving, D.V.M, of Boulder, Colorado, most summer skin irritations are either caused by or made worse by insects. Fly bites can cause nodular lesions on the skin, explains Loving. If these lesions occur on the horse’s body where you would put a saddle or girth, they can become further irritated, resulting in possible secondary infection.

Horses can also suffer from bite hypersensitivity. “In severe cases, the horse is very itchy, rubs out its hair, mane and tail, and creates open sores,” says Loving.

These open sores can then attract a host of other insects, thus increasing the chance of infection.

“Continued irritation can lead to scar tissue deposition around the injury, with possible mechanical or cosmetic consequences,” she says. “For example, a fly bite nodule at a girth or under the saddle can become an open sore with delayed healing. Then it is difficult to ride the horse, and, once healed, could leave a large knot that is further irritated by the girth or saddle.”

Loving adds that even minor irritations can become serious. “A minor wound could dissect more extensively inward, potentially invading into structures like a tendon sheath, joint or bone. It then becomes a serious wound rather than a minor irritation.”

If an irritation develops into a sore or gets infected, first-aid treatment is a must.

“Any wound requires thorough scrubbing, removal of necrotic tissue, topical anti-bacterial wound products and systemic antibiotics, if necessary,” recommends Loving. “Also, if the wound is beneath tack and equipment, refrain from saddling until the wound has healed.”

When treating an irritation or wound, many horse owners fail to clean the area thoroughly. Instead they wash it quickly or simply hose it off and then apply an ointment. This can actually trap the bacteria in the wound and make it worse. An important first step is to clean the wound thoroughly to remove all debris, puss and infected serum.

An effective way to do this is to pre-soak the wound or infected area with COWBOY MAGIC® KRUDBUSTER®, a micro skin cleansing wash for use before and after first-aid treatment. Use KRUDBUSTER® mirco skin cleanser to clean insect irritations and wounds, as well as rain rot, scratches, show crud, ring worm and girth itch. (KRUDBUSTER® is not intended for use on deep, open wounds or puncture wounds. Horse owners should contact their veterinarian immediately if their horse has suffered a serious injury.)

KRUDBUSTER® works in three steps: Spray the irritation or wound and the skin surrounding it. Let it soak for five minutes, and then gently scrub and rinse. Repeat these steps, if needed. If the wound has scabbed over, KRUDBUSTER® can also be used to soften and remove a scab in order to treat the underlying tissue. Once the wound or irritation is thoroughly cleaned, it can then be treated with a topical ointment to promote healing.

Horses living in hot, humid climates are susceptible to getting rain rot and scratches. Rain rot, also called rain scald, is a common skin infection caused by the Dermatophilus congolensis organism. This organism is an actinomycetes, which means it neither a bacteria nor a fungus, but acts like both. Rain rot appears as crusty scabs under the hair. The hair often clumps and sloughs off easily. Although rain rot is not life-threatening to horses, it does need to be treated to avoid the development of secondary infection.

Scratches is a dermatitis of the skin that is caused by the fungus Sporothrix schenki. It usually affects unpigmented skin on the back of the pastern, which is more sensitive. Extemely painful to horses, it causes swelling, bumps and oozing sores. If left untreated, scratches can become infected, causing the horse considerable pain and even lameness.

An effective treatment for rain rot and scratches is to use COWBOY MAGIC® RAINROTTM SHAMPOO. Independent clinical tests have proven that RAINROTTM SHAMPOO is 99% effective in killing the organism that causes rain rot and the fungus that causes scratches when applied as directed and left on the area for five minutes. To apply, wet the hair thoroughly, and massage shampoo into the area until it lathers. Leave the lather on for five minutes, then rinse thoroughly. For best results, repeat the process a second time, and then several times a week until the area is healed.

COWBOY MAGIC® KRUDBUSTER® and RAINROTTM SHAMPOO can be used together by alternating cleansing treatments. Both products are safe for use on dogs, as well. KRUDBUSTER® and RAINROTTM SHAMPOO are both classified as over-the-counter-drugs and are manufactured and labeled according to FDA OTC guidelines. “Quality standards for these two products are high,” says COWBOY MAGIC® founder and president, Jim Cummings. “Years of active-ingredient testing are required to validate product effectiveness. Label statements are regulated to ensure that no misleading statements are made, all ingredients are listed on the label and active ingredients are listed separately, declaring both the percentage of active ingredient used and what effect it has.”

When treating any wound, it is important to protect the area from flies that can cause recurrent infection. Use fly sprays (do not apply directly to the affected area), fly masks, fly sheets and bandages, as necessary. On days when the heat and humidity is high and the insects are particularly bad, consider bringing your horse indoors. The cool, dry environment of a barn will give your horse some much-needed reprieve.

The best thing you can do to protect your horse from insects is to keep his environment clean. Remove manure and soiled bedding promptly. Do what you can to minimize areas of standing water and to promote good drainage. Install fly misters in your barn and make sure your barn is well ventilated to reduce moisture levels.

For more information about the complete line of COWBOY MAGIC® products, log onto, or call (800) 755-6844 to find a retailer near you that carries COWBOY MAGIC® quality concentrated grooming products.

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