Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

To access Topics click on Vet Advice Menu.

Q I think my pony may have greasy heel. I have recently found white, scaly scabs on the backs of his knees and fetlocks on his front legs and all over his hind legs. What is greasy heel, what causes it and how should I treat it? My pony is a cob gelding who lives out with access to a stable.

A Greasy heel is a condition in which the skin becomes infected with a bacterium called Dermatophilus congolensis. This bacterium also causes mud fever and sweet itch. The bacteria start to grow when a horse's skin is wet and is damaged in some way by small scratches or wounds. Once the bacteria start to grow, they make the skin sore and moist. Once the infection has set in, it can become quite stubborn and difficult to treat, although the bacteria are usually sensitive to antibiotics

. Most antibiotic creams will help to control greasy heel. However, in order to achieve full recovery, they will have to be used regularly and you must take steps to improve the condition of the skin. I prefer the use of herbal products, as they help to get rid of the bacteria while, at the same time, improving the condition of the skin.

The type of herbs that work well are cedar root, tea tree and aloe vera. At the same time as external preparations, I often use herbal supplements that do a similar job from the inside. Some people also use more simple mixtures of sulphur and pig fat or vegetable oil to good effect.

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