Always wash patches of sore skin with clean, cold water without using soap – it dries out the skin! Shampoos specially designed for horses suffering from eczema are excellent for cleaning them.
2. Care is key
After washing, dry the skin with a clean towel (do not allow the horse to dry off in the sun) and then apply a gentle lotion (rub well into the skin until it is absorbed. This encourages the blood circulation and will distribute the product over large areas).
3. Mechanical protection from the sun and flies
Eczema rugs with UV protection and in heat-reflective shades are excellent for ensuring extra protection for horses, in particular from harmful UVB rays. They additionally provide much better protection from insects. Possibly also get a thinner one to avoid heat build-up on hot days!
4. Keep “protective clothing” clean
Anti-fly hoods and eczema rugs should ideally be cleaned every day to remove sebum, flakes of skin, loose hairs and dirt as they too can cause itching.
5. Pasture management
Where possible, horses should be let out into the paddock or pasture early in the morning or in the evening. It is even better here if animals are let out at night, should this be manageable.
6. A balanced diet also helps
Horses with eczema should always be fed a balanced diet of hay. Ideally this should be a mixture alternating between hay that is high and low in raw fibre as the calcium content of hay falls as the raw fibre increases. When supplementing the diet with zinc, manganese or selenium, make sure that they are organically bound. This way it is possible to selectively make up for any lack via small amounts of feed without burdening the intestine, liver and kidneys with unmetabolised compounds.
7. Additional insect protection
Areas of thin skin can be protected from insect bites by applying alumina-based pastes (e.g. EQUISTRO® PERCUTIN Paste). They cool the skin and make it more difficult for insects to sting. When using eczema rugs, fly sprays should always also be applied, particularly in areas of the body not covered by the rug (e.g. the legs).
Vet Dr Caroline Fritz