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Ten years of greasy heel finally healed

May 10, 2022

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Paddy is a 17 year-old thoroughbred gelding who previously competed to 5* Eventing. He was purchased in August as a schoolmaster for a junior rider and has been an absolute dream to ride and own since. Paddy’s previous owners had disclosed he had suffered from greasy heel for ten years; they managed it with Malaseb (Dermcare) washing at each ride and canvas fetlock/pastern protection.

Shortly after he arrived at his new home, the greasy heal exploded on both hind legs. He was treated by scrubbing the affected areas twice daily with an antibacterial wash (chlorhexidine), removal of scabs, zinc cream, multiple rounds of antibiotic paste (Suplrim) and anti-inflammatories (bute) with no improvement. This regime was done for months requiring sedation, twitching and general angst for both horse and owners!

After consultation with Dr Tina Baxter and multiple sampling and testing, an infection with a ‘resistant’ bacteria was identified. This means particular antibiotics weren’t killing the bacteria causing the infection. Paddy was started on a 10-day course of Penicillin and a new treatment protocol. Paddy’s new regime included spraying with chlorhex solution, a potent cortisone cream, silver-impregnated ‘socks’ and protective boots.

Dramatic improvement was seen within two weeks, and now Paddy requires little to no treatment, only prevention wearing silver socks and boots. Multiple checks and samples were needed to determine the long term plan, and diligent management was a key to the success.

Greasy heel is a complex problem. For each individual horse that suffers from this condition, there are different factors that contribute to it. In Paddy’s case, the resistant bacterial infection and minor knocks/bumps to the inside of the hind legs were the main factors identified.

Many skin problems in horses will get better without help from your vet. But especially for long-standing problems like Paddy’s greasy heel, it is worth knowing that more help is available. If your horse has a skin condition, please don’t hesitate to call CEC and book an appointment with the dedicated Dr Tina Baxter, who has extensive training and 20-years of experience in dermatology of horses and small animals.

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