Cowboy Bob's Dictionary


Horse with scratches

Scratches is a skin problem on the lower legs of horses, caused by a fungus (and sometimes complicated by bacteria). Also known as "greasy heel," "mud fever," "dew poisoning," "dew fever," and "pastern disease." The affected area becomes crusted, scabby and thickened, creating bumps and sometimes open sores. In severe cases the affected skin may ooze or the whole lower leg may swell, and the horse may become lame. Standing in muddy paddocks, grazing in wet pastures, and frequent bathing all weaken the skin's natural protective barrier and can trigger Scratches. This skin condition generally affects unpigmented skin (the areas of white leg markings) more readily than dark skin, since the unpigmented skin is not as tough-and more apt to chaff and scrape, opening the way for infection.
Photograph by Bob Lemen -- All rights reserved.