What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Sores, Crusts, Growths or Scabs on Lower Limb(s)


Crusts, scabs and growths located on the pastern, fetlock or coronet are quite common. They are less common above the level of the fetlock. Traumatic wounds are common low on the limb, and wounds do heal poorly here. Proud flesh is common, and a variety of growths, scabs and scars can result from poor wound healing in this region.

Crusts, scabs, and growths also be part of the pastern dermatitis syndrome (aka mud fever, greasy heel or scratches). Pastern dermatitis most commonly (but not always) occurs on white-haired pasterns with pink skin.

Other conditions that can similarly cause growths, or excessive crusting and scabbing on the lower limbs includes chronic lymphedema (common in draft horses), proud flesh, equine sarcoid, and some more rare conditions. See the list of accompanying differential diagnoses.

Although crusts in this area may appear to result from trauma, crusts or scabs in this area may not heal in the way you would expect traumatic injuries to heal. This can indicate that one of these other disease processes is involved.

The important thing is to diagnose and treat sores and scabs here. Left untreated or unresolved, skin can become more and more cracked and irritated, opening up an avenue for major infection of the limb. Chronic scarring and thickening of the pastern can also result, which can limit movement and cause chronic lameness. For this reason, it is important to take this observation seriously and try to reach a diagnosis and treat the area.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If there is swelling and pain associated with this problem.
    • If the problem seems severe, or involves a large area.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the problem seems very mild and limited to a small area.
    • If you do not notice any lameness or stiffness.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Assess the area. Consider whether the affected limb is white haired/ pink skinned. Check the other limbs for similar problems. Take a photo and share with your vet. You can try to treat crusting skin conditions in this area yourself. However, if you are unsuccessful, if it is a chronic (ongoing) problem, if it worsens, or if it is accompanied by lameness, you should always call your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not apply sticky, greasy ointments without first consulting with your vet, because these can worsen the problem.

Do not attempt to clean or treat the affected area if it causes your horse great pain or discomfort. In this case, contact your veterinarian.

your vet's role

Your vet can usually tell healing traumatic injuries from infections and other conditions in this area. This requires that they examine the area. In most cases, other diagnostic tests will not be needed and we rely on response to treatment. In rare cases, biopsy may be needed to differentiate among similar looking conditions.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Do you recall a wound to the area?
  • Do you recall an accident or injury in the horse's history?
  • How many limbs are affected?
  • Are the affected limbs white haired/pink skinned or pigmented?
  • Have you tried to treat the problem?
  • What treatments have you tried and how did they work?
  • How is the horse managed?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP