It’s that time of year again – the cold, wet weather arrives, the nights draw in, and we find ourselves religiously checking for those sadly familiar scabs! Luckily mud fever is non-contagious, which means it doesn’t spread from one horse to another or to people. However the skin condition causes irritation, soreness and scabs that form on the horse’s lower legs. Essentially what we’re looking at is an annoying case of skin dermatitis.
Mud fever commonly forms on the pastern and the heel. Infections can develop underneath the scabs, increasing the need to treat quickly – you may see swelling of the leg in more severe cases. Mud fever can be painful, and your horse may not tolerate the area being touched. Pink skin under white legs are more likely to be affected compared to dark skin/hair.
The most common cause of mud fever is bacteria, which has an elevated risk during the winter months due to horses being exposed to persistent wet, muddy conditions. The wet conditions cause skin to soften, then rough mud particles rub against this softened skin causing the skin to break and bacteria can enter. Other causes of mud fever are ailments such as leg mites which also break the skin and over exposure to UV. Basically anything that causes damage to the skin, allowing bacteria to enter.
This considered, there is a long list of things to do do/not do in order to swerve mud fever this season:
- Don’t allow your horse to stand in muddy or wet conditions for long periods
- Equally, don’t allow your horse to stand in dirty bedding
- Avoid regularly washing your horse’s legs, if you don’t dry them afterwards bacteria will thrive in damp conditions – If legs are wet and muddy it is recommended to allow mud to dry and brush it off. If washing is required, it is important to thoroughly dry the hair and skin.
- Avoid leaving skin broken, damaged or open.
- Consider turnout boots
- Finally, watch out for scabs, broken skin, matted hair and discharge. Additionally chat to your vet if there is any swelling in the leg or the horse is lame
If you suspect mud fever ensure it is treated quickly. It is important to inform your vet and tailor a specific treatment plan for your horse but general treatment should involve:
- Bringing your horse in out of muddy, wet conditions
- Keeping your horse’s skin clean and dry
- Potentially clipping any feathers
We really hope that you aren’t dealing with mud fever yet, but just in case do keep this article link to hand.