greasy heel in horses

Greasy heel is also known as grease heel, mud fever, and dermatitis verrucosa and many horse owners may be familiar with this condition. While horses that develop greasy heel are not in immediate danger, it can become severe if left untreated. Today we’re looking at what it is, how it develops, and how to treat it.

What greasy heel looks like

You may notice this condition on your horse’s lower legs as itchy and swollen patches of skin.  You may also notice that the hair in this area is matted and falls out easily. The name originates from the greasy looking discharge that oozes from the affected area, but if the condition is not serious, this area may simply look dry and flaky. You may not notice the symptoms as easily on horses with feathering on the lower legs. 

Treat this condition quickly, as it is prone to becoming more inflamed. If not treated effectively, the skin can easily become infected. Equine cellulitis and granulomas may also develop. 

Keep an eye out for 

  • Dry, flaky, cracked or inflamed skin of the lower legs
  • Greasy, sticky or yellowish fluid or discharge
  • Swollen or inflamed tissue
  • Patches of matted or thinning hair 
  • Bleeding or oozing sores
  • Lameness or signs of pain 


Greasy heel is often caused by the same bacteria involved in rain scald, and is more often seen in wet and humid conditions. Horses with white socks may show higher incidences of contracting greasy heel because of their predisposition to sunburns that may develop into greasy heel.

Likewise, factors associated include allergies, nutritional deficiencies, unhygienic stable conditions, and environmental irritants and microorganisms.


Treat mild cases of greasy heel by removing dirt and debris in the area and washing with the affected area. 

You should treat consistently until the area is healed, and keep the affected area clean and dry. As an antimicrobial spray, VetMed is an effective and gentle option as both a washing agent as well as wound care. VetMed’s active ingredient promotes increased healing while keeping the area free from pathogens like bacteria and fungus.  

You may want to consider wrapping the area if the condition is severe. While this will keep the area free from dirt, the wrapping may also retain some dampness. Consequently, it is important to keep an eye on the condition. 

Consequently, be sure to call your veterinarian if the condition spans a large area, or shows any sign of infection or swelling. Your veterinarian will also be able to remove any granulomas caused by greasy heel.


You should be sure to sterilize any equipment that has been used on affected horses to prevent cross-contamination. 

Similarly, be sure to wash your hands when treating horses with the condition to minimize the risk of spreading greasy heel or any other condition to healthy horses.


To learn more about how VetMed can help with hoof-related conditions, click here. To learn about seedy toe, click here.