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The Causes And Treatments For Mud Fever

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

We all dislike the wet winter months - especially our horses if they suffer from mud fever.

Mud gets everywhere, it's a miserable experience for both humans and creatures who have to deal with this terrible weather condition on a daily basis!

Mud Fever is the common name used for a skin condition 'pastern dermatitis', it usually occurs during the Winter/Spring months, it is not contagious and is very common, it can occur on all horses and ponies no matter what age, breed, or size but horses with white socks and pink skin are more susceptible.

What does Mud fever look like?

- Red, sore, and irritated skin (usually on areas of pink skin but can occur on darker skin)

- Cracked Skin

- Scabs

- Bald patches on the affected area.

- May appear weeping.

- Usually affects the pastern (between the fetlock and the hoof) but can occur anywhere on the horse's lower limbs.

- Swelling of the leg and lameness (in more serious cases)

Mud Fever
Mudfever - BHS Website

What causes mud fever?

Healthy skin has a natural barrier preventing bacteria from entering the horse, however when horses are stood in wet and muddy conditions for long periods of time the protective upper layer of the skin (Epidermis) can become damaged which allows the bacteria (Dermatophilus Congolensis) in and cause an infection.

How to prevent Mud Fever?

There are a few things we can do to help prevent mud fever such as:

Good Field Management: Electric Tape off any gateways or areas your horse stands in that is getting too muddy, having other fields or sections to rotate in if the ground is getting too poached, increasing better drainage, keeping ditches and streams clear so the runoff can drain away freely.

Avoid hosing down: If your horse comes in each night, avoid hosing down your horse's legs each evening, let them dry naturally and brush the mud off once fully dried, if you do need to hose your horse's legs off make sure you towel dry them thoroughly with a clean, soft towel.

Barrier Creams and Boots: There are a few products we can use to help prevent mud fever, some owners swear by using pig oil on their horse's legs as the mud just simply slides off, others like to use barrier creams such as udder cream or Sudocrem and there are some that use turnout boots which are close contact from the knee to the hoof and is made from neoprene, being neoprene it also allows the horse's skin to breathe whilst keeping the mud away.

How to treat Mud Fever?

If you think your horse has the signs of mud fever you should start to treat it straight away as it may become worse quickly and can cause a severe infection.

Try and keep your horse out of the mud as much as possible, clip away any hair around the affected area, clean off any mud with an antibacterial wash, when washing the area try to remove as much of the scabs as much as possible without causing any further discomfort, allow the area to air dry as much as possible followed by applying a liberal amount of antibacterial cream. If symptoms worsen or persist contact your local vets.

If you have any tips or tricks for preventing and treating mud fever comment below!

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