Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Disinfectants, MTG, Antisepetics

Just a day with different thoughts rolling around, so here we go.  Just to answer and offer some insights into some horse related medical treatments.

MTG...why can horses react?

It's an oil and sulfur based suspension, among other things.  Sulfur is a mild antimicrobial of sorts.  Actually sulfur is in a lot of acne topical medications.  However, like humans, some horses can have strong reactions to this sulfur compound.

Also, there is oil.  I have seen more than one person putting MTG on their horse (especially on the mane, having it drip onto the crest) and then put the horse back out in the heat of summer. Even dark furred horses can be burned quite badly.

What is a disinfectant? 

In my area, there is a new outbreak of neurologic EHV-1.  This has prompted a lot of discussion on how to clean various surfaces.

Disinfectants are meant to kill microorganisms (viruses, bacteria) on non-living things.  Compare this to an Antiseptic, which is meant to kill microorganisms on living tissue.

Common disinfectants are Lysol (a member of the "quat" family), bleach, ozone, and many more.  Even alcohol can be considered a disinfectant.

But wait...isn't alcohol used as a wipe before injections?

Well yes.  Alcohol is a antiseptic too.

What is an antiseptic?

Antiseptics are meant to reduce microbial activity on living tissue.  Cleaning a wound, treating rain rot, or thrush would be examples of how antiseptics come into play.
Alcohol, betadine (povidone-iodine), hydrogen peroxide, and chlorhexidine are common in the equine community.

Wonder why mouthwash can work as a treatment?  It has a few other agents in it, but one ingredient is often alcohol.  

Why does any of this matter?

Just thought it is interesting.  Some antiseptics work better on just bacteria or certain types of bacteria than others.  I am personally a little concerned when people use disinfectants in place of antiseptics.  While disinfectants will kill microorganisms, they kill healthy cells too. For instance, bleach is pretty harsh on all tissue.   If using it to treat thrush, it isn't going to differentiate from the native hoof tissue and the infection.

Along the same vein, hydrogen peroxide is often being re-examined as an antiseptic, as while it is effective, it can cause excessive scarring and a delay in healing time.  Who knew?  I certainly have used it in my equine past.

So, there is a lot of different ways to approach treating a typical mild wound or injury.  Funny how the tack box keeps expanding to cover each possibility, when often, we already have several antiseptics hiding in plain sight.

How about you guys?  What's your protocol of choice for those little wounds or scrapes?   Cleaning stalls or equipment before a show?  Any concerns with EHV?


  1. I am always careful when I use MTG, typically only on a cloudy day or I cover the spot I used it on. And i use it more in winter then summer.

  2. Wow - I didn't realize that about MTG, and I do use it on my boy - thanks for the heads up!!


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