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Summer brings longer days, warmer weather, and unfortunately, a unique set of challenges for horse owners. Among these are the notorious summer sores and scratches, which can cause significant discomfort for our equine friends. It’s important to understand the causes, differences, symptoms, and treatment options for these conditions. Staying informed protects your horse even before they get sick.

Causes of Summer Sores and Scratches

Summer Sores, also known as habronemiasis, are primarily caused by the larvae of parasitic worms of the Habronematidae family. These larvae are deposited into open wounds or on moisture of mucous membranes by flies. This results in an infection that leads to granulomatous reactions, characterized by chronic non-healing sores that are incredibly bothersome to horses.

On the other hand, Summer Scratches (or equine pastern dermatitis) are typically triggered by a combination of environmental factors. Wet and muddy conditions create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, and mites, which invade the skin on the horse’s lower legs. Horses with lighter coats or feathers on their legs are particularly susceptible to this condition.

Differences Between Summer Sores and Summer Scratches

While both conditions occur predominantly during the warmer months, they have distinct differences.

Summer sores are parasitic in nature. The sores appear as ulcerative lesions, often accompanied by excessive granulation tissue, and are usually found on the horse’s legs, face, and around the eyes or sheath.

Summer Scratches  are more related to dermatological issues caused by constant wetting and bacterial or fungal infections. It typically affects the pasterns and fetlocks and manifests as crusty, scabby, and often painful skin lesions.

Symptoms of Summer Sores and Scratches

Symptoms of Summer Sores

  • Persistent, non-healing wounds
  • Excessive granulation tissue
  • Itching and irritation, causing the horse to rub or bite the affected area
  • Swelling and secondary infections

Symptoms of Summer Scratches

  • Red, irritated skin
  • Crusting and scabbing, often with a foul odor
  • Swelling of the lower legs
  • Lameness or discomfort, particularly in severe cases

Treatment Options

At Signature Equine Hospital, we understand the frustration and discomfort that summer sores and scratches can cause horses and their owners. Our treatment protocol for these issues is designed to ensure swift and effective relief.

For summer sores, debridement is crucial to clean and remove necrotic and excessive granulation tissue, while for summer scratches, Clipping the affected area, thorough cleaning and drying the areas are essential to allow medication contact.

Depending on the condition targeted antimicrobial and/or antifungal treatment will be prescribed. These medications combat underlying infections, reducing inflammation and promoting healing.

To alleviate pain and discomfort, our veterinarians may administer anti-inflammatory medications. These help to reduce swelling and make your horse more comfortable during the healing process.

Fly and Environmental Management

Fly control is crucial for preventing the recurrence of summer sores, as flies are responsible for depositing larvae into wounds. Maintaining a dry and clean environment for summer scratches helps prevent further infections. We recommend rigorous fly management practices and environmental adjustments to keep your horse’s living area dry and hygienic.

Use Signature Equine’s In-House Compound Ointment

Signature Equine Hospital offers a proprietary, in-house compound treatment that has shown remarkable success in treating summer sores and scratches. This compound, developed through extensive research with our partners and clinical application, is designed to accelerate healing, reduce inflammation, and prevent further infections. It is applied directly to the affected areas, providing fast-acting relief and promoting tissue regeneration.

Get the Best Treatment at Signature Equine Hospital

Dealing with summer sores and scratches can be challenging, but your horse can quickly return to optimal health with the right care and treatment. Signature Equine Hospital’s experienced team and innovative treatment options, including our proprietary in-house compound ointment, offer an unmatched level of care.

If your horse is showing signs of summer sores or scratches, immediately give your local equine veterinarian a call. Don’t wait for the condition to worsen. Signature Equine Hospital is here to help with your equine veterinary needs. Let us help you keep your horse happy, healthy, and comfortable all year round. Call us now to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our specialized treatments.