Can You Ride a Horse with Rain Rot? Plus How to Treat It.


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I planned to load up my horse for a trail ride when I noticed it had rain rot. The effects of this disease are not usually severe, and I quickly treated it. But I wanted some guidance before deciding whether or not it would be safe to ride,

Whether to ride your horse or not depends on the location and severity of the rain rot. If the rain rot has been treated and is on its way to healing, then it would be ok to ride your horse. Be sure to bathe and dry your horse after riding.

Rain rot can be painful in certain stages, so always err on the side of caution and only ride when you are certain the infection is healed. There is a lot to know about the causes and treatment of rain rot.

Picture of two horses in a paddock and one has rain rot.

Don’t ride a horse with active rain rot.

The location of the rain rot is essential in deciding if you should ride a horse. It is also necessary to determine the stage of the infection, is the infection active, inflamed, if so then don’t ride?

Rain rot that has been treated and is healed other than remaining sparse hair is ok to ride. It’s still critical to wash and thoroughly dry your horse after riding.

If your horse is still showing signs of inflammation and the rain rot is located where the saddle pad rest, you should not ride the horse. The area will be tender and itchy. Give your horse time to heal.

Saddle pads trap moisture, and the horses’ body creates heat. Humidity and high temperature make a perfect environment to grow the bacteria that causes and promotes the growth of rain rot. Riding a horse with rain rot is not a good idea.

Rain rot typically only affects a horse’s topside.

The bacterial infection typically affects the top side of a horse, the portion exposed to rain; this area includes the back, rump, withers, and shoulders.

Because rain rot commonly damages the area where the saddle rests, it’s critical to evaluate the severity of the infection before saddling the horse for a ride.

The same bacterial infection on the legs is “mud fever.” Early symptoms of rain rot are matted hair and lesions on the skin. Equine skin diseases can become serious.

These lesions may appear scaly and patchy but will grow and combine, affecting more extensive areas. Eventually, the wounds will develop a crust with puss oozing from below the surface.

If you gently rub the infected area with your hand, you will feel a lot of small bumps. The hair comes off easily when washing, rubbing, or brushing. In most cases, the infection is not painful; however, in extreme cases, it can lead to a distressing situation. In this case, consult with a veterinarian.

Stephen D.White DVM, Diplomate ACVDA, studies equine bacterial diseases and documented some interesting information. You can read about his finding in this report: Equine Bacterial and Fungal Diseases: A Diagnostic and Therapeutic Update

Picture of a horse with rain rot,

Rain rot is painful in some horses.

Rain rot in horses can be painful if not treated. Minor cases of rain rot are not painful and don’t itch. As stated previously, early detection and treatment can control the disease without much effort.

However, if left untreated rain rot can develop into a severe and painful skin condition. When horses are in this stage, it definitely should not be ridden.

Rain rot is a bacterial infection.

Rain rot on horses looks to terrible but treating the condition is not difficult. However, there is a lot to more to this infection than an ugly coat.

Rain Rot (rain scald), is an infection of the skin caused by bacteria. This bacterial infection can look bad but is not too difficult to treat when caught early. However, there’s a lot of valuable information you need to know about treating rain rot.

Rain rot is a bacterial skin infection caused by a build-up of harmful bacteria on the skin. The particular bacteria that causes skin rot is Dermatophilus congolensis.

The same bacterial infection causes “mud fever.”

Dermatophilus congolensis bacteria also is the cause of mud fever and skin diseases in cattle, sheep, and humans — the result of the bacteria on the skin manifest in crusty scabs.

Dermatophilus congolensis like other bacteria reproduce on their own. The bacteria attacks compromised areas of the skin and spread outward, causing inflammation and scabs on the surface.

Skin acts as a barrier to disease. A breach of the skin, such as lesions exposes an animal to serious adverse health consequences. Prompt attention to rain rot is paramount to preventing illness and contamination.

Rain rot is contagious to humans and horses.

Yes, rain rot is contagious to humans. It is vital to keep your infected animal in a well-ventilated dry area during the time he is contagious. Wash your tools and hands after each grooming or doctoring of your horse.

Flies, mosquitoes, and ticks spread the bacterial infection. Proper insect control is vital to preventing the spread of rain rot. You can read our article on horse flies and gets some tips on how ways to control these pests here.

Rain rot is not only contagious to humans; it is contagious to other animals as well. That is why it is essential to take control of the situation early. Rain rot, when caught soon enough, is easy to control. If you groom your horse twice weekly, you should notice early signs of the disease.

When you notice rain rot, wash all saddle blankets, and clean all grooming tools. Any items that you use on multiple horses must be sterilized, so you don’t pass the bacteria from horse to horse. To read a study on the transmission of rain rot between animals click here.

A good tip to prevent the spread of rain rot is to have grooming tools for each horse you own and label the equipment with each horse’s name.

Confirm rain rot with your veterinarian.

Notify your veterinarian of the skin condition and have him confirm your horse is suffering from rain rot. He can advise you on treatment plans and steps you need to take to avoid spreading the bacteria to other horses.

Treat rain rot with 5 easy steps.

To treat rain rot, remove any loose hair and clip the hair around the affected area as safe as possible. Wash with antibacterial shampoo, apply betadine, and towel dry. Coat area with an antibiotic salve on the raw skin to reduce the pain.  

Treating rain rot isn’t complicated and can be done sufficiently well at your home or barn. If you are sure the condition is rain rot, trim the hair around the infection, wash, remove scabs, dry, and treat with topical ointment.

1. Trim and remove the hair affected by the rain rot

When you rub your hand over rain rot a lot of loose hair comes off without difficulty. The hair that doesn’t remove should be trimmed so the affected area is exposed as much as possible.

Removing loose hair and cutting the hair allows air to the skin and promotes drying. Hair traps moisture, without the hair in your way, can apply a topical salve more effectively.

2. Wash the affected area with an antibacterial shampoo.

Use an affective antibacterial shampoo and thoroughly wash your horse. Get a good lather, then repeat the process to ensure the rain rot section is clean.

3. Remove any scabs and dried skin while washing the horse.

When you are washing your horse, remove scabs if possible without hurting your horse. Don’t pull scabs off that may cause bleeding. It is recommended to use an antibacterial shampoo.

We researched different antibacterial soaps to find the best one. Here is a link to Amazon customer reviews for E3 shampoo so you can read what other horseman has to say:

4. After washing the dry the area thoroughly.

Dry the affected area thoroughly. If you were not able to trim the hair use a blow drier to ensure proper drying in the area.

5. Apply a topical ointment to the area.

A topical solution can be applied for soothing or protection if the horse is going to be turned out an application of a greasy topical solution to provide moisture protection. Absorbine Fungasol Ointment has a vaseline consistency that works well to prevent moisture from penetrating the infection.

More than 35 Amazon customers have written reviews on this ointment, and have rated it an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Here is a link to their reviews: Absorbine Fungasol Ointment: customer reviews.

rain rot,

Does M-T-G work on rain rot?

Some products get passed down from one generation of horse owners to the next because they work, like Thrush Buster, Wonder, and MTG.

MTG was originally designed for humans but soon became a standard treatment for equine skin irritations, like pastern dermatitis and rain rot. For best results, strictly follow the instructions.

We’ve found MTG to work well on all our horses, but some of my acquaintances swear it doesn’t work for them. The only reason I can think of that it wouldn’t work is because they don’t use it correctly.

To be effective, you have to let it set on the infected area for a long time; we don’t rinse it off but rather let it stay put. You also have to shake the bottle to mix the ingredients before applying it.

I recommend MTG for treating rain rot. You can click here to check it out and read the reviews of other customers on Amazon’s website.

Pickture of healthycoat supplement

How long does rain rot take to heal?

After we treated our neighbor’s horse for rain rot, it looked pretty rough with exposed scabs and missing hair. The horses’ coat was in bad shape and this made me wonder how long it would take for the horse to heal from this condition so I did some research to find out.

Minor episodes begin to improve within a few days of treatment, and typically heal in a few weeks after you mitigate the causes of the rain rot. However, because of horse’s hair grows slowly, the bald spot will be noticeable much longer. Severe cases may take two months or longer to fully heal.

During the treatment of your horses’ try to determine why they contracted the infection in the first place and take steps to prevent it from reoccurring. For example, I find that you can boost your horse’s coat with feed supplements such as Healthy Coat.

Does rain rot go away by itself?

I thought I had it all figured out when my friend with horses told me he lets rain rot run its course and doesn’t treat the infection. This prompted me to research if he’s right. Does rain rot go away on its own?

Rain rot can heal on its own over time. The infection is created from a combination of moisture and bacteria. The disease will heal after the environment, which allowed the bacteria to grow, is eliminated. (Click here to read a research study on this issue.)

After bathing dry your horse before turning him out. Scrapers make excess water removal fast and easy. Next, clean all tack that touches the horse’s body. These steps will not only speed up recovery but help to prevent the spread of the bacterial infection.

If you keep your horse in a pasture, provide him access to dry shelter during rainy periods. Don’t cover him with material that traps moisture. If you frequently use a fly-sheet, make sure it is made of breathable material.

There are effective home remedies for rain rot.

There are home remedies that have proven effective for the treatment of rain rot. Before you apply the home remedies, remove loose hair and wash the area with an antibacterial shampoo.

Listerine: Mix equals parts Listerine with baby oil, coconut oil, or something similar. Apply after each wash. (Many equestrians use this mixture.)

Apple Cider Vinegar: Mix 3 part apple cider vinegar to 1 part baby oil. Apply after each wash for at least three consecutive days.

Bleach: Mix one part bleach with three parts bleach. Pour mixture over a rag and pat on the affected area of the horse. This is an old school method to kill the bacteria that causes rain rot.

A fellow horse lover posted some home remedies on the website ofhorse.com. She also rescues horses and provides some helpful information in her article. Below are her home remedies for rain rot that I think are useful.

Rain Rot Salve

  • A large tub of cocoa butter Vaseline (I buy regular Vaseline and add natural cocoa butter but both ways work)
  • Powdered Sulfur (Lowes or Home Depot in the garden center) Lily Miller is the brand I use and it is about $5 for one pound, which will last you forever!
  • Tea tree oil (Dollar General sells it in the hair care aisle for 3 dollars)
  • Rosemary Oil

Directions:

  1. Take your tub of Vaseline and put contents in a glass bowl that can be microwaved.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of sulfur (just enough to turn the mix pale yellow) A
  3. Add 10 drops of tea tree oil and 10 drops of rosemary oil
  4. Heat until soft, and mix together with a spatula. (It should now be soft enough to pour back into your tub.)
  5. Use this ointment for faces and any spot that needs better coverage than the oil version I will also give you. This will also heal small wounds and even large wounds like you would not believe. The tea tree has anti-fungal properties as well as the rosemary. Rosemary also promotes hair growth. Sulfur does most of the work. For years Sulfur has been a go-to for many ailments. Why not use what has worked so well for centuries!? Sulfur is one of the main ingredients in MTG!

Rain Rot Liquid Version (similar to MTG)

  • A large bottle of baby oil
  • Powdered Sulfur
  • Tea tree oil
  • Rosemary oil

Directions:

  1. You can mix this right in the baby oil bottle or you can use a bigger bottle with a sprayer on it. Whatever works well for you.
  2. You want to add ten drops of both oils like before and just enough sulfur to have about a half an inch in the bottom of your oil when it settles. 
  3. Shake well and apply where needed

This works well for larger areas that need more coverage!

Rain Rot Home Remedies – Of Horse. https://www.ofhorse.com/view-post/Rain-Rot-Home-Remedys

Can Dogs Get Rain Rot Like Horses?

When I learned rain rot was contagious, I began to wonder if my dogs could contract the infection. So, I decided I needed to do some research to find out.

Dogs can get rain rot. However, it is uncommon for dogs to contract the disease. Rain rot is a contagious bacterial infection. It thrives in humid, hot conditions and invades the skin of horses and most other hoofed animals.

Why are dogs not as susceptible to contract rain rot as some other animals? I don’t know the answer.

How to treat Rain Rot

FAQ

Can rain rot kill a horse?

Rain rot won’t kill a horse, but it can be painful and stubborn. This is a bacterial disease that is typically easy to treat and most horses make a full recovery.

Does rain rot hurt horses?

Rain rot can be very painful for a horse depending on the severity of the condition. In some cases, the infected area is inflamed and the skin cracked and bleeding.

Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

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