Scratches (Pastern Dermatitis)

Prevent, heal and protect your horse's pasterns all year round

Scratches is the common term for Pastern Dermatitis. It is also known as, mud fever, greasy heel, or dew poisoning. No matter the name you’ll recognize it when the skin in the hollow of the pastern becomes reddened, tender, scabby and scaly. Scratches is generally caused by two organisms; the bacteria dermatophilus congolensis or the fungus Sporotrichum Schenki. This mixed bacterial, sometimes fungal, skin condition occurs most commonly on the back of the pasterns but can creep around to the front and up the cannon bones in some cases. It can cause severe pain for your horse, especially if it develops deep cracks that lead to infection. Immediate treatment is necessary - The longer scratches go untreated, the more pain for your horse, and the more difficult they are to overcome.

Scratches occurs most often from standing in excessively wet or dirty environments. Uncleaned stalls, muddy paddocks or constant walking through wet grass. The skin can split and bleed in severe cases, but most horses just get thick, hard scabs with thickened, rubbery flaky skin.

Pastern dermatitis is prevalent in Friesians, Gypsy’s and draft horses because the thick feather causes the area to stay wet for prolonged periods of time. If your feathered horse has developed a bad case of scratches, it’s a good idea to clip the feather so air can circulate through and help keep it dry. Don’t worry – contrary to myth – the feather does grow back. Remember, that wet hair holds in mud and moisture and successful treatment means doing your best to eliminate both.

How to Treat Pastern Dermatitis on Horses

At the first sign of crusty scabs and reddening around the curve of the pastern:

  1. Gently wash the area with Equiderma Neem Shampoo, our neem oil based sulfate free cleanser also contains arnica, chamomile, basil, pine bark and cherry bark. The antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and free radical scavenging properties will help eliminate infection, ease the pain and amplify healing. It will also help soften the scabs so allow it to remain on the skin for 10 minutes up to one hour before rinsing. The scabs should rinse off without any painful picking or scrubbing. It's important not to scratch "scratches." This will further aggravate the skin and drive the infection deeper.

  2. Rinse well and dry the area with a towel, or a blow dryer if your horse doesn’t take issue.

  3. Apply Equiderma Skin Lotion to all affected areas, and any swelling on the leg and cover with Equiderma Zinc Oxide Paste for added protective covering.

    Keep the area clean and dry and apply the treatment daily. You’ll see immediate improvement and a steady march to healing over the next few days.


If you know you're going to be riding your horse through mud and wet fields, use Equiderma Zinc Oxide Paste to provide a protective barrier to the skin. In addition, trim the fetlock hair as a preventive measure. Mud and moisture work against you when trying to prevent scratches.

Equiderma Before & After Photos


Equiderma Treatment F.A.Q.

Q: How do I know it is winter scratches and not another disease?

A: Despite similarities with other skin infections, winter scratches are not caused by a fungus. Scratches have their own specific set of symptoms. Red skin, hair loss, and painful, bleeding scabs are common symptoms of scratches.

Q: Can I just wait for the dry, warm months to solve the problem without treatment?

A: Pastern Dermatitis, aka winter scratches will progressively get worse. Starting out as "mild" the scratches will progress to become “exudative” and then "chronic proliferative" if left without treatment. A horse can quickly become lame if the scratches and pain associated with the disease are not treated.

Q: How does Equiderma work? What makes it so effective?

A: The Equiderma Shampoo, Lotion and Zinc Oxide all contain powerful essential oils that fight infection, bacteria, mites and other factors that can lead to winter scratches. For over 25 years Equiderma has studied the disease to develop fast, effective treatments for winter scratches, and many other horse skin conditions. Other products on the market cut corners to increase profits. Equiderma products only use the highest quality ingredients without any unnatural cost saving fillers.

Customer Testimonials

Don't just take our word for it - here's what some of our customers have to say:

Bad case of scratches. Nothing worked until I discovered Equiderma products! Bad case of scratches. Nothing worked until I discovered Equiderma products!

This case of scratches was persistent to the point of scary. The vet gave me a treatment protocol that only made it worse. While searching on the internet I found the Equiderma products. Discussed my case with Bethany, who was very helpful, and started using her products. I knew I was on the right course when I started to see the swelling subside and the scabs begin to wipe off. Continued diligence twice a day, using the Equiderma lotion on the infected area and the zinc oxide paste around the perimeter to prevent any spreading along with careful sanitary precautions eventually lead to complete healing! It took time but persistence and constant vigilance with the Equiderma products paid off. I highly recommend these products, they worked wonders. Thank you Equiderma!

Lisa S.
Nothing worked! Then I tried Equiderma Nothing worked! Then I tried Equiderma

My warmblood Sky had scratches for 9 years ever since we came to New England. I tried every product on the market to rid her of this skin issue nothing worked! Then I tried Equiderma and was amazed at the results!!! Honestly, the product healed all scratches! I highly recommend it.

Karen P.
All scratches are gone All scratches are gone

Tried numerous products until I stumbled across the Equiderma skin lotion. I combined it with an exfoliating shampoo and rain rot and scratches are completely gone. I also love, love the fly spray.

Silvia C.
He is scratches free now He is scratches free now

My yearling Stella was struggling with a very bad case of scratches this spring. I battled for over a month before I bought the scratches combo kit from Equidermia. The shampoo has a pleasant smell, laters well and rinses our easily. The blue lotion helped dry up the scratches and the zinc oxide kept her legs dry in the tall prairie grass that was wet with dew every morning. He is scratches free now and I just apply the blue lotion to her legs a couple times a week for maintenance.

Anna H.
Made scratches on her foot disappear Made scratches on her foot disappear

I have been using Equiderma products for about a year now. I started by buying the conditioner and the zinc oxide paste. The zinc oxide made scratches on her foot disappear and I didn't have to worry that I was using harsh chemicals on my horse.

Karen B.

Gstaad has had scratches forever. I tried everything in the tack stores and online. I even tried a special cream that vet created and got no results. Equiderma works!

Beth P.
Today v. Last Week: What a huge difference with only three applications! Today v. Last Week: What a huge difference with only three applications!

My two year old filly arrived with "Scratches" and I tried my very best to get rid of them. I called the vet. We got her pastern under control again, but by now, she was very skittish with any treatment. She was good with bandages but she got more and more upset with scrubbing. I had to call the vet again. This time I was given sedatives. While I'm pragmatic, I didn't really like that solution. Thank goodness I found Equiderma! There was immediate improvement, no pain/no scrubbing, and my filly has settled down. No more Irish step dancing! Thank you for an excellent product... I've even recommended it to my vet who plans to share with his other clients.

Susan F.
Scratches are almost gone after one week! Scratches are almost gone after one week!

My coming 5yo gelding was turned out for the winter to allow for growth and maturity. He was turned out 24/7 and 45 minuntes away, so I was unable to groom him as much as I wanted. I noticed in October he started to get scratches, and I tried to treat, but due to him always being turned out and the terrible, wet winter we had, and the fact that I could only visit him once or twice a week, it was impossible. Once we decided to bring him back to work, I pulled him out of the field and was dismayed to see the scratches had spread to all four legs and were painful and swollen. I purchased the equiderma spa treatment of shampoo, conditioner and lotion and went to work. I still was only able to get out there a couple times a week, but after a week, his scratches started to slough off. When I brought him back to his show barn, I was able to give him a proper bath and really treat the scratches, but didn't need to, as they were almost all gone! I am using just the lotion right now as a preventative and to clear up the few remaining spots!

Valerie W.
Healthy legs make for thick, beautiful feather Healthy legs make for thick, beautiful feather

I use Equiderma Zinc Oxide paste on my heavily feathered Gypsies to keep their skin healthy. It clears up scratches in record time, making it so my horses have healthy legs and in turn, thick and luxurious feather. I have also used it for sunburn and it quickly clears it up.

Cheyenne B.
Gone in 2 days Gone in 2 days

He had scratches put the lotion on and it was gone in 2 days .. I swear by this product.

Lorie A.
Hundreds of dollars spent with the vet! Hundreds of dollars spent with the vet!

I literally have been working with two different vets to clear the "scratches" on Derby's back leg. She was on oral steroids, antibiotics, and several topical creams. I was so frustrated with the lack of results. My vet was going to contact MSU veterinary clinic for addditional help. In the mean time, I decided to try Equiderma as it kept popping on my screen as I searched for answers. Well, I can stop now! Equiderma worked and I am ready to try the lotion and keep it on hand! Thank you!

Kay W.
Scratches are gone Scratches are gone

When we rescued Tika last year, she came covered in rain rot, cannon crud and had a large tumor on the inside of her ear. Scratches on her back legs appeared a month after we had her home. I tried everything - and nothing was getting rid of her skin issues - until someone passed along Equiderma. The blue lotion covered my whiteboard horse and in a couple of days the rain rot areas were gone, cannon crud erased and even (and this is amazing!) the tumor in her ear was shrinking! Scratches are gone too! We are so impressed with this product and how it has treated a grey's sensitive skin. It smells wonderful going on and she seems to be healthier and ready to get to work.

Laura K.
Love your products! Love your products!

Brandy has been plaqued by skin problems her whole life: sweet itch, insect allergies, scratches, possibly threadworm. Every summer she itches and scratches, rubbing on anything she can find. I have tried several different treatments, all with little to moderate success until Equiderma. One shampoo cleared up 90% of her skin lesions! Then using the lotion, zinc and the fly spray daily or even every other day kept her the most comfortable I have ever seen her in the summer with the bonus of a lovely glimmering coat! Melanie B.

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