Boots and Wraps for Scratches Prevention

Boots and wraps might help prevent scratches, but only when used properly and with other management techniques.
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If not used properly, boots and wraps can trap moisture and debris, causing scratches. | Photo: iStock

Q: Can boots or wraps prevent scratches?

A:  Scratches, or pastern dermatitis, is a term used to describe any condition causing crusting, redness, swelling, or irritation affecting the lower limb of the horse and can vary widely in severity and root cause. Management should be tailored to the individual horse, their environment, and the inciting cause of their condition. Consultation with your veterinarian is recommended even in early stages and especially if the lesions are not responding to some basic topical therapy and management.

I see the most cases of scratches in the early spring or following heavy periods of rain. While it might seem tempting to use wraps or boots preventively during these periods, they can trap moisture and debris if not changed frequently, which might contribute to the onset of this condition. My general recommendations for preventing scratches are to minimize time spent in deep mud, allow frequent periods away from wet environments to allow the pasterns to dry, and consider shampooing the lower limbs with a chlorhexidine-based shampoo two to three times per week to prevent secondary bacterial skin infection, then towel-drying the area.

For horses that are already affected, I recommend clipping the area to allow for easier topical therapy application, especially if the horse has longer hair in this area that might trap moisture and crusting. These areas should be treated daily with a chlorhexidine spray or shampoo and allowed to dry. If the horse must be turned out in wet conditions, it can help to apply a well-layered standing wrap to try to keep this area dry. This wrap will need to be changed frequently to ensure the layer in contact with the pastern remains dry.

 

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Lara Tomich, DVM, Dipl. ACVD, grew up surrounded by horses, dogs, cats, chickens, pigeons, lizards, and fish in Warwick, New York, completed her veterinary degree at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2015. Following graduation she completed a small animal rotating internship at Tufts VETS and a dermatology specialty internship and a dermatology residency at the University of Illinois. Tomich’s interests include creative management of allergic dermatitis, laser surgery, and equine dermatology. She enjoys playing soccer, riding horses, listening to live music, skiing, and cooking in her spare time. Neither she nor her dog, Theodore, enjoy running but occasionally give it another try.

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