Dew Poisoning

Natural equine treatments for scratches, mud fever, dew poisoning and greasy heel in horses.

equine scratches, mud fever, dew poisoning & greasy heel in horses

Select a Topic

  1. What is Dew Poisoning?
  2. What Causes Dew Poisoning?
  3. Diagnosing Dew Poisoning
  4. Help for Dew Poisoning
  5. More Information on Dew Poisoning

What is Dew Poisoning?

Dew Fever, often referred to as pastern disease, greasy heels, mud fever or scratches, is a horse skin disease caused by a bacterial infection that most commonly affects the lower leg and upper hooves of horses. This potentially serious condition is usually recognized by greasy, cracked and inflamed skin around on the lower legs.

Equine scracthes can be very serious and needs to be treated swiftly. If left untreated, the infection can spread and throughout the body and may become life-threatening.

Symptoms of dew poisoning:
  • Inflammation of the coronet or pastern area
  • Itching and discomfort
  • Weeping or oozing skin that may feel greasy to the touch
  • Crusts or scabs on the affected area
  • Cracking skin
  • Matted hair
  • Hair loss


What Causes Dew Poisoning?

Dew poisoning is caused by bacteria that thrive in damp conditions. This makes it a fairly common condition during muddy and wet seasons when it becomes difficult to keep your horse’s legs dry.

It is also more common in endurance horses, as the sweat that runs down their legs provides the perfect breeding ground for these bacteria. Horses with white legs or pasterns are also more susceptible to equine grease heel as they are more inclined to solar dermatitis or sunburn allergies which have been implicated as a possible cause.

Diagnosing Dew Poisoning

Many vets will be able to diagnose dew poisoning after gathering a detailed health history of your horse and performing a thorough examination of the affected area. In some cases, your vet may recommend a culture test to identify specific fungi or bacteria.

Help for Dew Poisoning

The first step in treating dew poisoning is to keep the affected area dry and make sure your horse has a dry shelter. Before applying any ointments or oils, it is important to thoroughly clean the affected area and trim any matted hair that may be aggravating the infection.

Mild cases of dew poisoning can usually be treated with a good anti-bacterial soap, followed by a medicated wash such as Vetadine. Other common treatments include antiseptic cream, zinc oxide paste and thrush creams. In more serious cases, antibiotics or corticosteroid creams may be prescribed.

Natural Remedies

There are a number of herbal ingredients that can greatly help with the treatment and prevention of dew poisoning. Wintergreen Oil contains beneficial soothing properties and Linseed oil works as an effective skin salve. The herb Horsetail works effectively to help treat wounds and has become renowned for its effective antibacterial and antioxidant properties.

Another beneficial herbal ingredient for treating dew poisoning is Comfrey which has traditionally been used both topically, for inflammation, pain and wound healing. Lastly, the herbs Marigold and Lavender also come recommended as they work to treat skin infections, sunburn, and skin wounds, while encouraging healthy skin and relieving skin discomfort.

More Information on Dew Poisoning

Tips for dew poisoning
  • Keep pastures and paddocks free of manure build up and mud. If mud and excess water are a problem then you may want to improve drainage.
  • Dew poisoning is contagious and so it’s important to sterilize any equipment used on the infected horse, before using it on other horses. It may be useful to use a completely different set of brushes and equipment for the affected horse.
  • If your horse has white pasterns it is advisable to apply a thin layer of sunscreen to the vulnerable areas every other day. This will help to prevent moisture, control any skin infection and prevent sunburn.
  • Do not wrap the infected area in bandages as these will only trap the moisture in. The best thing to do is keep the areas dry and able to breathe.
  • Always call your veterinarian if the dew poisoning spreads over a large area or if you notice signs of swelling or infection.