Mud fever is the name given to a quite common equine skin complaint that affects many horses and ponies during the winter and early spring months.
It is also called Rain Scald and Mud fever can cause painful sores and scabs, which in severe cases can make a horse lame.
In horses it most commonly affects the pastern and heel area but can also affect the upper leg, the belly and in some cases the neck area.
Coping with equine mud fever can be difficult.>
There are few things worse than wet, muddy winters and when mud fever is thrown in, your horse can really suffer
So, What causes mud fever in horses’?
Mud fever is caused by an infection of the skin by the bacteria Dermatophilus Congolensis.
Under normal circumstances the skin acts as a protective barrier, preventing the bacterium from entering the horse’s system and doing any damage. However, the integrity of the epidermis can become compromised through the abrasion of soil grit on cold, wet skin.
The continual wetting of the skin causes a breakdown of the protective barrier of the epidermis, allowing the bacterium to enter and do its worst.
Horses and ponies standing for hours in muddy, wet paddocks and at gates are a common sight during the winter months and early Spring.
It is in these conditions that mud fever thrives. Generally, those horses’ and ponies with white socks are more prone to the condition, although mud fever will affect horses of all breeds, ages and colours.
As with any bacterial infection, Mud Fever can become a very serious condition very quickly.
The horse’s legs can become swollen and sore and open sores can become quickly infected.
Often, such is the level of damage to the skin that these open sores can become very difficult to heal and can result in proud skin, permanent hair loss and in severe cases the need for skin grafts.
How do I prevent Equine Mud Fever?
Good Paddock Management is Essential …
As soon as the paddocks start to become wet and muddy take preventive action. If possible, rotate your paddocks to avoid horses having to stand in wet, muddy ground.
Use electric fencing to prevent horses from standing for long periods in the deep mud that collects in high traffic areas and, if possible, put good quality hardcore in the gateway areas.
Grooming & Leg Washing …
Avoid hosing down your horses legs. It’s generally better to allow the mud to dry and then gently brush off with a soft bristled brush. If you must use a hose, gently dry the horse’s legs with a soft, clean, dry towel.
Use Good Quality Horse Care Products …
There are many products available to help protect the skin from the constant wet by forming a barrier between mud and the horse’s leg, although many experienced owners still swear by a good quality nappy rash cream such as Sudocrem.
However, barrier creams do have the drawback that your horses’ legs are still covered in mud when they come in from the field.
- EQUI-CHAPS close contact chaps from Equilibrium Products are a fantastic way of keeping your horses legs clean and dry and helping to prevent mud fever in horses’.
- These Chaps encase the horses lower leg in breathable Stomatex, fitting well down over the hoof and under the heel.
- Uniquely designed to fit snugly around the contours of the horses leg, like a second skin.
- EQUI-CHAPS close contact chaps help to keep your horses legs warm, dry and mud free to help prevent mud fever.
Treatment – What do I do if my horse contracts mud fever?
If your horse contracts mud fever, keep him out of the wet and mud…
- Clip the hair away from the infected area
- Rub an anti-bacterial lotion onto the scabs to soften them and then gently remove them.
- Once removed, liberally apply an anti-bacterial cream to the area and make sure you keep the skin clean and dry.
If the mud fever symptoms don’t improve or you have any doubts that DIY treatments are working, consult your Vet. They will advise you on the best course of action.