What does Grease Heel look like?:
Grease heel appears on lower legs as patches of scurf beneath hair that looks matted or staring. Under the scurf the skin will be red, and oozing. Grease heel is also called mud fever, scratches, or greasy heel.
Cracked skin in the pastern areas can be difficult to heal since the area is always flexing as the horse walks. The pain from the inflamed skin can cause the horse to appear lame.
Left untreated the skin can become deeply cracked, and infected.
What Causes Grease Heel?:
The same conditions that cause rain scald also cause grease heel: mud and wet. If pastures and paddocks are muddy, it may be hard to provide a place where the horse’s hoofs and legs aren’t wet. But if the horse’s legs are constantly damp the bacteria that causes grease heel can thrive. Grease heel may be more prevalent in the spring when pastures are muddy from snow melt and rain, and again in the fall when the weather is wet.
How Can Grease Heel be Avoided?:
Grease heel may be mild during dry weather, but flare up during damp weather. Keep your horse in clean, dry conditions. Keep its stall clean and don’t allow dampness from urine to build up. Keep paddocks and pastures free of manure build-up, and improve drainage if mud is a problem
How Can I Heal Grease Heel?:
Mild grease heel can be treated by brushing away any dirt and dead hair, washing with an antiseptic soap, and working a topical like an antiseptic cream or zinc oxide paste through the hair onto the skin. Some owners claim that creams designed to treat yeast infections are effective. Keep the area clean and dry and continue treating until the condition is gone. Don’t apply wraps or bandages that may hold in dampness. Keep the horse in a clean dry area to prevent recurrence.
Any brushes or equipment used on a horse with grease heel should be sterilized before use on another horse. It may be easier to keep a separate set of brushes for each horse being treated to prevent cross-contamination.
If the grease heel covers a large area, has become badly cracked or there is any evidence of swelling or infection, call your veterinarian.