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Rain Rot in Horses, Dogs and Cats

Updated on April 24, 2013
Example of a moderate case of rain rot.
Example of a moderate case of rain rot. | Source

About Rain Rot

Rain Rot (also known as Rain Scald, dew poisoning, dermatophilosis or Mud Fever) is a common and highly contagious skin infection that occurs in dogs, cats, horses, cattle, sheep and a wide variety of wild animals. It is caused by dermatophilus congolensis, a facultative anaerobic bacterium. This means the bacterium can use oxygen when it is available or switch to anaerobic metabolism (fermentation) when it is not.

D. Congolesis generally affects the epidermis. The bacterium causes the skin to scab over as well as hair loss. While it can occur all times of the year, generally proliferates in high heat and humidity. Dense winter coats can also provide ideal conditions for dew poisoning. I have also found that waterproof bug spray locks moisture to the skin. This also can exacerbate rain rot infections.

Just like with other bacterial infections (like pink eye), the horse can reinfect himself from other areas of the skin.


The single best way I have found to treat rain rot is to use a shampoo in the following way:

Rinse your animal thoroughly. With a gloved hand, and medicated soap, feel for and remove all scabs. Generally you will find pink, inflamed skin behind those scabs. Scab removal has been shown to decrease healing times. Be careful to look behind legs, around ankles and on the insides of legs. Remove and throw away gloves. Rinse. Wash your animal a second time. Again, feel for scabs (if you did a good job, you shouldn’t find any). Again rinse and be sure all shampoo is removed. Allow your animal to dry and apply medication to the affected areas. Most of the products for treating rain rot recommend the double wash. I have done single washes before, and found that the double wash makes the problem go away much quicker.

The following products have been shown to dramatically improve healing time:

  • Cowboy Magic Shampoo
  • Cowboy Magic Krud Buster (spray on after bathing)
  • Vetracyn (apply after bathing)
  • Iodine-based shampoos
  • Colloidal Silver Spray (apply after bathing-works great as a “liquid bandage)

Check your animal daily for reocurance and repeat as described above. Depending on the severity, it may take a few weeks to heal, but it always goes away.

Product to apply after washing and scab removal

Early Detection

To detect a rain rot in its early stages, it is best to check your animals daily. I run my hands along each leg, paying particular attention to the ankles, joints and under arms. If your animal has a tail that lays against the skin, be sure to check there as well. Be sure to check the face, neck and under the chin. Floppy ears on dogs can also be a common location.

When you find rain rot, it will feel like a scab. This scab should be removed because that scab is unrelated to healing. The bacteria are anarobic (they do not like oxygen) and form the scab for protection.


It is very hard to prevent the spread of rain rot, unless it was caught very early. If your animal has this condition, or has had it in the recent past, do not share items that come in contact with the skin.

For horses, this means brushes, leg wraps, saddle pads, girths, breast collars or anything else that comes in contact with the skin with other horses. Wash all fabric items with hot water. Neoprene can be cleaned with a dilute solution of chlorine. As a general rule, each of my horses has their own set of brushes, their own saddle pads, girths and breast collars. This helps prevent the spread of disease.

For dogs, this means collars, bedding, kennels etc.

In addition, good nutrition helps support a healthy immune system. Consult a nutritionist or veterinarian to ensure your animal is getting what he needs.

Finally, it is possible to transfer rain rot to your own skin or other pets that may never come in contact with the affected animal. Be careful and wash your hands thoroughly after treatment.

Rain Rot Instances

Have you experienced rain rot? If so, in what species?

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If you have an animal that has experienced rain rot, have you had repeat issues?

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    • Mardi profile image

      Mardi 5 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

      Great article. I am lucky our horses have never had rain rot but it can be a problem here in Texas in wet winters. It seems that horses that are in poor condition run a greater risk of developing the condition?

      Thanks also for mentioning Vetracyn - that is a must have in your home horse first aid kit!

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