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Home:Equine Diseases:Dermatophilus

Equine Diseases - Dermatophilus




Equine Dermatophilus is also known as equine rain rot, rain scald, skin fungus, streptothricosis and, when it appears on the lower limbs, as "dew poisoning."

Equine Dermatophilus is one of the more common skin infections that can afflict horses. It is an anaerobic fungal infection and it does not need oxygen to live and spread. You can take comfort from the fact that Equine Dermatophilus is not traumatic on your horse as he/she feels no discomfort from the infection itself. Although Equine Dermatophilus is not a pretty sight, it is relatively harmless. There is no itch or pain from the infection and it does not penetrate further than the skin or cause abscesses.

You will know your horse has Equine Dermatophilus if you feel small lumps on the skin or hair when you run your hand over your horse's coat. There are normally tiny scabs showing hair embedded in them. This is caused by the infection entering the follicle of the hair shaft. The scabs can actually be pulled off and underneath the scabs, the horse's skin is usually pink with a yellowish coloured pus secretion. Equine Dermatophilus causes damage to the hair root causing the whole hair shaft to come out in clumps, thus leaving the area hairless.

Younger horses are more prone to Equine Dermatophilus. The disease has a tendency to recur.

Equine Dermatophilus is contagious. It can be transmitted by using shared horse equipment like blankets and tack or any other instance where conditions are shared.


  • a series of crusty scabs
  • matted/raised tufts of hair
  • pink skin oozing yellowish pus.
  • Loss of hair.


Equine Dermatophilus is caused by

•  the Dermatophilus congolensis bacterium entering the horse's hair shaft follicle

•  lack of oxygen

•  wet conditions

•  high temperature

•  high humidity

•  Sharing tack with affected horses.


Although there is no itch or pain with Equine Dermatophilus, it should be addressed quickly to stop secondary bacterial infections.

Your vet can confirm the condition by looking at the scabs under a microscope. Medical treatment of Equine Dermatophilus will most likely take the form of oral antibiotics. A large range of antibiotics such as penicillin, erythromycin, spiramycin, penicillin G, ampicillin, chloramphenicol, streptomycin, amoxicillin, tetracyclines, and novobiocin are very effective.

You can do a lot to relieve the dermatophilus symptoms yourself. It is imperative that you try to remove the scabs, daily if possible, and let the air circulate around the infection thus causing it to dry up. Needless to say, removing the scabs can be uncomfortable and painful for your horse so take it easy. The scab removal can be done whilst bathing. This should be done for a few days using an antibacterial shampoo which will help enormously. There is a popular belief amongst owners that swabbing with USED motor oil is effective.

Keep your horse dry and in a well ventilated area during treatment and during heavy rainfall.

If the infection is on the horse's spine, keep the saddle off and refrain from riding until the condition clears as weight on the scabs will cause pain

Remove the horse's winter coat in Spring as this will make it very difficult for the bacterium to take root.

Keep the rays of the sun off the hairless area as you don't want sunburn added to the woes! A protective blanket is best as sun protection creams contain too much moisture when you are trying to keep the area dry. The blanket will also protect against insect bites. It will need to be washed frequently to eradicate the bacterium.

Keep your horse and its equipment totally segregated from other horses to avoid contagion and disinfect equipment to prevent a recurrence of Dermatophilus.