Ask the Vet: Wound Care During the Insect Season

Insects can be a nuisance in the summer and an even bigger problem to your horse. Join us in July as we answer your questions concerning wound care during the insect season to July's AAEP expert, Dr. Amy Poulin-Braim.

Question: I have a gray horse that has red, sometimes bloody, sores on his mid-line, cheeks and behind his ears. Is this from mosquitoes? My barn manager has been putting desitin on the areas, but it doesn't seem to be getting much better. What is the best product to use? I have been suggested an anti-fungal/anti-bacterial shampoo and spray for the area. I feel that desitin will not allow the area to breath, but she has a point in that it will help keep new irritations away from the area.
During the summer months, it's not uncommon for small pinpoint red sores to pop up in these areas. Typically, the most common locations are insides of the ears and the underside of the belly. These sores are actually small bites from gnats, flies or other insects and the sores are weeping serum/blood that accumulates after the bite. Since your horse is grey, it would be easy to see these areas. Treatment would include daily/every other day gentle cleansing with an anti-bacterial shampoo (one that contains chlorhexidine as the active ingrediant would work the best). After the area dries off, placement of triple antibiotic (like neosporin) or SSD (Silver Sulfa Diazine) ointment over the affected area will help heal the wound. These products are easier to work with and clean off as compared to Desitin, which works better for moist rashes. Treatment should be coupled with the preventative stratagies outlined below to both help the sores that are currently there now and prevent new ones from appearing.     
Preventative strategies include:   * Fly spraying your horse daily before turnout, especially the underside of the abdomen and using the fly spray wipes to gently apply to the inner ear. * Placement of SWAT or other type of fly repellent ointment around (not covering) the affected areas (this can be placed around the base of the ear and not in the ear).
* You can also place a fly bonnet to the head of the horse, which covers the ears and/or a fly sheet with a belly guard.
* Turning your horse out overnight and keeping him inside during the day also helps with reducing exposure during the time of day when insects are at their highest.
* Barn/Stall/Pasture management: Routine daily cleaning of stalls and picking up manure in pasture. Having the manure pile away from the barn/turnout. Use of fly predators or other nonchemical products used to attract insects. Elimination of standing water.    
I would encourage you to consult with your veterinarian who will be able to provide you with additional customized suggestions and are tailored for your situation. I would also recommend if the sores you are referring to are pesistent open wounds and are large in size, speak with your veterinarian. As always, keeping up to date on routine vaccinations is imperative and your veterinarian will be able to provide you the best information for what is required in your area. Best of luck!
Question: I'm not sure if this falls within the month's topic but I am having a hard time fighting the ticks off of my horse. He has sores, scabs and hair loss in both his mane and tail from the ticks. I have bathed him in betadine shampoo to help and also keep him in fly boots, mask and fly wipe, but they still find their way up to his tailhead and mane. Is there anything else I can be doing to help prevent these ticks from creating more sores and crusts on my horse? Should I be concerned with his sores from the tick bites?
You are not alone! Due to the warm winter we had, ticks & other pests have emerged much earlier than normal! Once ticks find their way to your horse, they tend to migrate towards the forelock, mane & tail bone regions, leaving behind exactly what you describe, an irritated, itchy weaping sore with risidual crust.   Some fly repellents do have ingredients that will repel ticks, but tend to need daily application (even if they say lasts 7-14 days), immediately prior to turnout. The product should be applied directly to the forelock (spray repellent onto your hand & rub into the base of the forelock), mane (apply along the topline & underside where the mane falls over onto the neck) & tail (apply directly to the roots of the tail hair at the level of the tail bone & the skin surface on the underside of the bone) - even then, this is not completely preventative. Other ideas to consider are: Pasture maintenance; regular mowing of the pasture & removal of low laying brush, especially where the pasture meets neighboring woods. Daily examination of your horse when you bring in from pasture/daily grooming with physical removal of any ticks found. Removal of stagnant water or regions that can cause increased humidity.   Ticks can transmit several different infectious diseases (ehrlichiosis, lyme disease, piroplasmosis), can cause fever of unknown origin and aside from the skin irritations you are now seeing, if the infestation is severe enough can also cause anemia (reduced red blood cell count). Therefore, daily attention to removal of ticks from your horse in combination to pasture mangement as well as consulting with your veterinarian who can provide more tailered information to suite your needs are the best defense you have!