Scratches, also known as mud fever, pastern dermatitis or grease heel, is an infection that occurs on the back of a horse's heels, but can spread up a horse's cannon bones.
Scratches can occur in horses that are turned out in wet or muddy conditions, those that have cuts on their legs from insect bites or wounds, or those that have cracked skin from wet-and-dry weather cycles, The break in the skin allows bacteria to enter and causes a serum to leak from the cut. This seepage creates mats in the hair and forms a hard scab. These scabs can become sensitive to the point that the horse becomes lame.
A veterinarian can determine the exact cause and the best course of treatment. The best way to prevent scratches in the first place is to keep a horse's legs dry. Ensuring a horse is consuming a diet that meets his nutritional and trace mineral needs can also help make the horse's skin as resilient as possible
Zinc helps maintain cell membranes and helps with skin's flexibility and elasticity. Zinc also aids in the skin's ability to create an effective barrier from the elements and it helps with healing. To ensure that a horse is receiving enough zinc in his diet, he should be fed a high-quality commercial feed at the correct amount to receive all of the benefits of the feed.
Dry skin is more likely to chap, so offering a source of fatty acids, like those high in omega-3s like flax, can help prevent dry skin.
Read more at The Horse.
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